So Donald Trump's tweets earlier this week trashing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have people suddenly really worried that the Trump administration will force cuts to the Pentagon's notoriously over-budget weapons programs or even cancel the project altogether. Not that I'm a huge fan of trillion-dollar jet fighter programs or anything, but that's bad news for the F-35's manufacturer, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and for the city of Fort Worth, Texas, where Lockheed Martin and the US Naval Air Station there are the city's two biggest employers.
New York has Wall Street. West Virginia has coal. Los Angeles has Hollywood. And Fort Worth has the F-35 plane.
For more than a decade, this aircraft has served as the economic lifeblood of the west side of town, where it is manufactured. Yet, the F-35 is deeply unpopular elsewhere in the country, thanks to a series of cost and scheduling overruns.
And unfortunately for its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin — and Fort Worth — the F-35 is now in the crosshairs of President-elect Donald Trump.
Is Cowtown rattled?
“Oh, absolutely,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, a Fort Worth Democrat. “Everybody’s talking about it.”
“It was something that I would say sent fear through the people that work for the plant, Republicans that are longtime, proud Fort Worth residents,” he added. “It was something that got everybody’s ear.”
It started this month, when President-elect Donald Trump tweeted: “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”
He since met with executives from Lockheed and rival Boeing and added to the anxiety on Thursday with a follow-up tweet, indicating he might pull back on the F-35 manufacturing in lieu of a Boeing aircraft.
“Long term, it would be catastrophic,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said of the economic impact of canceling the F-35.
It's important to note that Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located, voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 52-43% margin. Nearly ten percent of Trump's statewide winning margin in Texas came from just Tarrant County alone, compared to Clinton winning neighboring Dallas County by almost 200K.
It's entirely possible that Tarrant County may have just end up voting themselves out of tens of thousands of jobs.
Merry Christmas, Fort Worth!