“Look over there: a squirrel.”
That expression is a cliché for the Internet generation, but it shows how redirection works. When a politician is losing a policy argument, for example, it’s usually easier to create a distraction than it is to deliver new facts that will change the narrative.
Of course, this sort of distraction isn’t funny when it endangers national security. Right now, the Air Force needs to upgrade its fighter jet force. It’s currently depending on the F-35, a jet that is expensive to build and is “a jack-of-all-trades and master of none,” as a Popular Mechanics story puts it. The Air Force reportedly wants to buy and deploy the new F-15X fighter jet, which would diversify the fleet and improve national security.
But that’s where the distraction begins.
At the beginning of the year, President Donald Trump elevated Patrick Shanahan to Acting Secretary of Defense. Shanahan is exceptionally well-qualified for the role, having served as a deputy for almost two years under former Defense Secretary James Mattis. Shanahan headed up some crucial projects. He was perfectly positioned to replace Mattis when the former general retired last year.
Shanahan also worked, as many civilians at the Defense Department have, at defense contractor Boeing. During his 30-year career there, he worked a lot on commercial aircraft, but he did work on some defense-related projects as well. And some in Washington are eager to use that fact as a distraction.
In recent months, staffers for a U.S. senator passed along allegations that Shanahan was pressuring the military on behalf of his former employer. He was allegedly encouraging the military to buy Boeing products, and was allegedly insulting planes made by a competitor (specifically the F-35). Newspapers and Web sites wrote up the rumors, and a self-declared “watchdog” group also sent a letter of complaint to the Department of Defense.
However, it was all just a distraction, as a comprehensive DoD investigation proves.
About three dozen people cooperated with the Defense Department’s Inspector General. That includes Shanahan himself. “All of the witnesses we interviewed, including Mr. Shanahan, cooperated fully with our investigation and answered all of our questions,” the IG report makes clear. In addition, the investigators reviewed about 5,500 pages of unclassified documents and some 1,700 pages of classified documents about the allegations. The results of the probe are crystal clear.
“We did not substantiate any of the allegations. We determined that Mr. Shanahan fully
complied with his ethics agreements and his ethical obligations regarding Boeing and its competitors,” the IG report says. For example, when Boeing was even mentioned in a meeting, Shanahan would leave the room to avoid swaying the discussion.
The report concludes that “With regard to the specific alleged comments about Boeing, we
determined that Mr. Shanahan did not make comments promoting or favoring Boeing. Rather, Mr. Shanahan shared his aircraft industry experience as an industrial engineer and supply chain manager to highlight best practices, decrease costs, and increase performance for the DoD’s benefit, not to promote Boeing or any specific aircraft.”
So that case is closed, and with that distraction eliminated, and we can turn to our national
That means the F-15X. Aviation Week reports that the available “models are based exclusively on already fielded technology, including strengthened wings and large area displays funded by the Qatari Air Force, plus conformal fuel tanks, a digital fly-by-wire control system, APG-82 active, electronically scanned array radar and the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) introduced by the Royal Saudi Air Force.” So the plane is ready to go. It’s also familiar to many current Air Force pilots, which is also a bonus.
These F-15 models are built by Boeing, but that isn’t especially relevant. What’s important is that they’re a known platform that works, and that building them won’t take money away from the F-35. They’re a plus, to add to the national defense picture and fill important holes in the Air Force’s fleet.
Our country needs a diverse Air Force. Now that we’re ready to move past the distractions and focus on the big picture, it’s clear we need the F-15X.
Shak Hill is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and former combat pilot. Shak works with families and businesses helping them with their comprehensive financial planning and recently published his third book, A Gun Owner’s Guide To Financial Planning. He is keenly interested in politics and ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in Virginia.