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Report says Lockheed has exaggerated jobs tied to F-35

Lockheed Martin is challenging a report from a nonprofit research group that alleges that the company has “greatly exaggerated” the number of U.S. jobs generated by the F-35 fighter program.

The company’s assertion 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 a 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, D.C.-based center said.

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

Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Rein said the Maryland-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 every direct job.

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

Rein said the program has created 32,500 jobs in the U.S. tied directly to production of the aircraft, its engine and components, plus 92,500 other, indirect jobs. About 6,000 jobs in Fort Worth are directly tied to the F-35.

Rein 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-based 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 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.

The report also tallies campaign contributions to key lawmakers from Lockheed Martin and its top subcontractors during the 2011-12 and 2013-14 election cycles. About $1.7 million has been contributed to F-35 Caucus members, according to the report, including Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, who’s in line to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and received $162,500 from 10 F-35 contractors since 2011, and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who received $195,950.

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