Published September 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Protecting the Stealth The Pentagon has a new strategic aircraft on its drawing board that, in years to come, could give our national defense effort a significant boost. That aircraft is commonly called the "Stealth" bomber, and it is a technologically advanced plane that will have the capability, over a long period, of slipping into Soviet airspace undetected. Because of its sophisticated technology, the Stealth will be able to render billions of dollars’ worth of Soviet air defenses virtually obsolete until the end of this century and into the next. This capability would give America an edge in the vital air defense arena. That makes the Stealth aircraft important to our future national defense efforts; so important, in fact, that I recently offered an amendment to the 1984 defense authorization bill to protect the Stealth's future development. My amendment, which was approved by the Senate, would prevent the Pentagon from rechanneling funds meant for the Stealth into other defense programs. I see the possibility of such a siphoning of funds from the Stealth development effort because it is carried out in top secret. This necessary secrecy has prevented the Stealth program from gaining widespread national following. That lack of a national voice, pressing for the continued development of the Stealth, could make the aircraft vulnerable if the Pentagon sees cost overruns in other areas and is tempted to "borrow" from the Stealth account to make up for those overruns. Despite the fact that it is a highly classified program, several things are known about the Stealth. As a versatile aircraft, the Stealth can perform a full range of missions, and it represents the best that our advanced technology has to offer. All reports indicate that the Stealth's development is on target and progressing satisfactorily. That progress on the Stealth will be protected because of my amendment, and I am encouraged that the Senate adopted my amendment and agrees that development of the Stealth strategic aircraft is a key part of a strong national defense.