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Fri, Nov 07, 2008

Lawmakers Blast Pentagon Over F-22 Appropriation

Pentagon Holds Up Funds To Continue Production

Congress and the Pentagon are at odds over both the scope, and the very continuation of, production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. At a cost of $140 million each, the funding of the F-22 is rapidly becoming a political football.

The current contract calls for 183 more F-22s to be built, but Congress has appropriated $500 million in the 2009 budget, enough to build 381 more F-22s. Arguing the cheaper Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is better suited to present needs, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England favors purchasing F-35s over F-22s.

Pentagon officials say the jet fighter is too expensive plus its stealth and speed are not needed, especially deployed in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but is committed to production of the F-22 until the next administration has the opportunity to evaluate the program.

Conflicts over the fate of the F-22 earlier this year between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Air Force leaders resulted in the firing of two senior Air Force officials, the Wall Street Journal reported. Ultimately, an Air Force spokesman has indicated it will comply with the Pentagon's final decision on the matter.

In a letter signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, ranking member Duncan Hunter, chairman of the Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces Neil Abercrombie, and the ranking member of the subcommittee, Jim Saxton, lawmakers pointedly stated that if F-22 production is shut down and ramped up again, the resulting costs could approach $500 million.

The Congressmen said the funds are needed for contacts that have to be awarded by late next month, according to the letter. John Young is the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, and so far has refused to release the $140 million.

A Lockheed spokesman stated the funding "would provide an economic advantage that leverages the investment that has been made by the country in the F-22," allowing the next administration time to assess the Raptor's fate.

FMI: www.af.mil, www.defenselink.mil

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