Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) is in line to become the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Republicans convene this week in Tampa, Fla., for their national convention. The 77-year-old Inhofe, the Senate's only commercial pilot, recently spoke with Aviation Week Congressional Editor Jen DiMascio in his Senate office.
AW&ST: Your colleagues are talking about finding a way to delay the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts due to take effect next January. Will you join the fight?
Inhofe: I believe that Barack Obama will go down as the greatest anti-defense president in history. Here's a president who has increased the deficit by $5.3 trillion and yet he's drying up our defense system. With every budget, he disarms us more. In the first budget, he took away our only fifth-generation fighter, ourlift capacity, the Future Combat Systems and the ground-based interceptor in Poland. That was just the first year, and then it got worse. The effect over 10 years would be that he has taken half a trillion dollars out of the defense system. If you add the Obama sequestration, it will be another half-trillion. Even his own secretary of defense, [Leon] Panetta, says that would be devastating to America.
Do you support slowing sequestration?
I think we have to slow it down. We have to do something about the portion that affects the military. We also want to start eliminating the stuff that he has been spending money on.
How likely is it that sequestration can be slowed?
It's our job. Mitt Romney, who was not my first choice in the primary, is catching on, along with the American people. The polling is showing that [voters] know what [Obama is] doing to the military. And I think they're definitely on our side. Do you want to do away with Obamacare, or do you want to do away with our strike vehicles? The choice will be pretty easy. [Republicans] are going to have to do it with the control of the White House and the House and Senate. I don't have any doubt in my mind that the Senate is going to go Republican. Winning the White House will be tougher.
If Republicans were to take control of Congress, would they be able to stop some of the defense cuts you were talking about?
If [Obama] wins the White House and we win the other two? Yeah. I think we could do it. Now the problem would be that we wouldn't have a veto-proof majority, so we couldn't do a lot of the things we could do otherwise. You have to take it piece by piece. We could stop quite a bit of [Obama's] climate-agenda spending. I would be the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Do you support proposals to reduce the size of the Joint Strike Fighter buy?
Obama's been letting that slide since he became president. He's trying to reduce it this year, then next year and keep reducing it. That makes the price per copy go up. I just came back from the Farnborough air show, and we saw technology and propulsion systems that France, Italy and other countries have. We're getting behind the curve on this. So we had a lot of sales for the, and as we reduce our take, that increases their price, and [the administration is] canceling them now, which increases the price even more.
Gen. James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has talked about reducing the nuclear stockpile. What are your thoughts on that?
I disagreed with Obama on the New Start treaty. That would put the U.S. on parity with Russia in the reduction of our warheads to 1,550. And he left out tactical weapons, where they outnumber us 10 to one. [Obama] was saying, 'We'll reduce our arsenal below the required 1,550 warheads by 80%,' and then even whispering, 'We'll do more than that.' The worst thing he did was do away with the ground-based missile interceptor in Poland. Then he tried to put together this system where we're usingships [for missile defense] to save money.
What do you think about the's investments in biofuels?
If anyone has to do this silly stuff, it should be the Energy Department—that's their job. We're paying $450 a gallon for 20,000 gallons of fuel to be used in our aircraft. This is stuff you can get for $3 a gallon. We're throwing away billions of dollars on this green agenda. [The Senate Armed Services Committee has passed] my amendment, the Inhofe-McCain amendment, which says you can't spend more on fuel for any of our military vehicles—including ships and airplanes—than the cost of [conventional] fuel.
Your Pilots Bill of Rights has been signed into law.
When [former Sen.] John Glenn retired, that left me as the Senate's only remaining active commercial pilot. Not a week goes by that I don't get a call from someone saying, 'We got hit by thein some inspection and they're going to take my license away.' It's the last holdout in this country where you are guilty until proven innocent. This law, it says that in the event that something happens in the field, the FAA can't take action against you until you have access to the evidence that will be used against you for at least 30 days.