Lockheed Martin Inflating F-35 Job-Growth Claims, Nonprofit Says

Tony Capaccio (c) 2014, Bloomberg News

Lockheed Martin has “greatly exaggerated” the number of U.S. jobs generated by the F-35 fighter jet, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program, according to a new report from a nonprofit research group.

The company’s claim that it has created 125,000 U.S.-based direct and indirect jobs in 46 states “is roughly double the likely number of jobs sustained by the program,” the Center for International Policy said in the report released Wednesday.

“The real figure, based on standard estimating procedures used in other studies in the field, should be on the order of 50,000 to 60,000,” the Washington-based center said.

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The number of jobs generated by the $391.2 billion program has been a key selling point for Lockheed Martin in mustering support in Congress. Led by a 39-member “F-35 Congressional Caucus”, lawmakers fully funded the 29 jets the Pentagon requested in this year’s defense budget.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Rein said the Bethesda, Md.-based company stands by its figure, which he said is derived from detailed U.S. subcontractor numbers and a standard methodology for estimating how many indirect jobs are created by one direct job.

“This is an art more than a science,” Rein said, disputing the center’s report in a telephone interview. The numbers don’t include any direct jobs overseas. Lockheed Martin’s U.S. jobs numbers “can easily be a called conservative when you talk about the number of jobs worldwide,” he said.

Rein said the program thus far has created 32,500 jobs in the U.S. tied directly to production of the aircraft, its engine and components, and another 92,500 indirect jobs.

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He faulted the study’s central conclusion that Lockheed’s figures indicate that almost four indirect jobs are created for every direct job. Lockheed’s methodology indicates that about three, not four, indirect jobs are created by every direct F-35 job, he said.

That’s the same ratio Lockheed Martin used for its F-22 fighter program and a method that Chicago-base Boeing Co. and other aerospace companies also employ, Rein said.

“The F-35 program has a very large positive economic impact in the U.S. producing high-technology jobs in small and large communities across the country,” Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Laura Siebert said in a separate e-mail.”We expect the positive U.S. economic impact to continue to grow as F-35 production volume increases.”

William Hartung, the report’s primary author, said in an e- mailed statement: “The bottom line is that they claim many more indirect jobs than other studies in the field” that have assessed the relationship between direct and indirect jobs.

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The report also compiles the state and international breadth of the F-35 contractor base, listing domestic and overseas companies. It says that Italy, Australia and Turkey, three of the top international partners buying the aircraft, have 31, 27 and 10 companies, respectively, working on the F-35, according to the report.

It also tallies campaign contributions to key lawmakers from Lockheed Martin and its top subcontractors during the 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 election cycles. About $1.7 million has been contributed to F-35 Caucus members, according to the report.

One notable recipient, the report says, is Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who is in line to take over as chair,man of the House Armed Services Committee with the current head, fellow Republican Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, deciding not to seek re-election this year.

Thornberry has received $162,500 from 10 F-35 contractors since 2011, according to the report, second to McKeon’s $218,650 and $195,950 to F-35 Caucus co-chairwoman Texas Republican Kay Granger. She represents the Fort Worth district where the F-35 is assembled.