The F-22 Raptor Fighter Endures July 1, 2009Posted by Stephen Abott in Analysis, News.
Tags: F-22, Procurement Reform, Secretary Gates
It is hard to end a defense acquisition program on Capital Hill. The growing number of F-22 Raptor Fighter jets is case and point. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated in his April 6th press conference that he planned to limit procurement of the stealth fighter to 187. Parochial interests, however, have prompted policymakers of both political parties to fund additional F-22s in their FY2010 budget authorization bills.
The House added $369 million for advanced procurement of 12 aircraft in FY2011. The Senate, last week, added $1.75 billion to buy seven aircraft, effectively providing all funding up front for the new aircraft, unlike the House, which leaves more budget wiggle room.
The unrequested funding has led to something unseen in the young days of the Obama administration, a veto threat (F-22 Advance Procurement). The argument over the F-22 has gotten so heated, in fact, that Democratic Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie stated that, “[The Pentagon] needs to learn who’s in charge, and the Congress is.” Representative Abercrombie is not alone in trying to add unrequested procurement items to the DOD budget. It is likely that Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) had a role in adding $1.75 billion to the Senate authorization, although the mark up was closed and it is impossible to know what actually happened .
The F-22 procurement debate reflects the larger discussion about how to, and whether to, control or curtail defense spending. A major component of DOD budgets is procurement, consisting of about 20 percent of FY2010 base budget expenses. Any attempt to slow the recent upward trend in Pentagon budgets would limit growth of this account. However, if Congress is able to add F-22s and other procurement items that Secretary Gates has decided to restructure or cut, the upward trend in defense procurement is likely to continue.