Criticism is growing in the United States regarding the safety of the Osprey

Criticism is growing in the United States regarding the safety of the Osprey

MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft at the Marine Corps Air Station Mirama, San Diego, California, in January.

June 13, 2012 Hideki Matsudo of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

The lobby seeking to stop the procurement plan of the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft is becoming stronger in the United States. On May 17, Congressman Mike Quigley from Illinois put forward an amendment to cut defense funding for the Osprey in fiscal 2013. He pointed out that the Department of Defense had become a jobs program [for the Osprey] because 2000 companies supply parts for the Osprey from 40 states. Alluding to “pork-barrel politics,” the congressman referred to it as “dangerous pork with wings.” In the released report, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a prominent Washington think-tank that has influence on U.S. security policy, called on the Marine Corps to end its purchase program for the MV-22 Osprey in 2016 fiscal year in order to reduce defense spending.

A debate over the safety and financial burden of the Osprey has been kicked into life. The background to criticism of the procurement plan for the Osprey is a huge cut in defense spending due to financial difficulties. The U.S. government has outlined a budget request for the 2013 fiscal year (October 2012 – September 2013) that will cut the defense budget of $260 billion (about 20 trillion yen) over the next five years. The huge production cost of the Osprey has attracted great criticism because it will cost more that one million dollars or eight billion yen per aircraft. In addition to financial difficulties, the crash of an Osprey on April in Morocco has made people increasingly anxious.

“We are emerging from a recession. And we have limited resources, which means we have to make choices. Choosing to fund this over-budget, dangerous, non-essential plane means making cuts in other vital areas such as education, infrastructure, and healthcare,” said Quigley, calling for Congress to approve cuts to the budget for the Osprey. However his amendment to cut defense funding for this project was rejected by lawmakers representing constituencies related to the corporations that manufacture the aircraft. Quigley pointed out that the Bush administration had tried to freeze funding for the MV-22, but that Congress would not allow this because of the ramifications for employment. “If all we’re worried about is job creation, we’d be better off building bridges and transit programs. I want to save Marine lives,” he said.

In a new study issued in May entitled “Sustainable Preeminence: Reforming the U.S. Military at a Time of Strategic Change,” the CNAS, an influential think-tank in Washington D.C., opposed the procurement of the Osprey by the Marine Corps. The new study suggests that the Marine Corps may not be able to operate in anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) environments employed by China, and it recommends that the Corps should rely more on its sister services, the Air Force and Navy, and deepen the interdependence among the military services to reduce costs. The study suggests that the Marine Corps should cease MV-22 procurement in fiscal 2016 as one way of making budget savings.

However, there is strong speculation that the Department of Defense will continue to engage in the development and manufacture of the Osprey.
John T. Bennett for U.S. News & World Report commented that, “The Marines and their Boeing and congressional allies, however, have kept the MV-22 program going amid years of technological problems, making changes unlikely now that deployed Ospreys are performing well in combat.” While the Okinawan people’s concern about the Osprey deployment to the Futenma base is growing, the benefit to the military-industrial complex, including legislators, national armed forces and the defense industrial corporations, will take precedence over the controversial safety issue of the aircraft in the United States.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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