Updated at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.
Congress moved to add more funding for the Marietta-made F-22 Raptor on Thursday, setting the stage for a bruising fight with the White House — which threatened only 24 hours earlier to veto a major defense funding bill over the issue.
In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee finished closed-door negotiations by accepting an amendment by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss to add $1.75 billion for seven more of the Lockheed Martin stealth fighters. The measure now goes to the full chamber.
In a separate action, the U.S. House this afternoon passed a $550 billion defense bill with an added $369 million in additional spending on the F-22. The House measure also includes language that would permit the sale of a different, less potent version of the fighter to other countries such as Japan.
Both actions occurred less than a day after the White House issued a memo detailing its objections to the House bill. The additional F-22 spending — for parts — was first on the list:
The Administration strongly objects to the provisions in the bill authorizing $369 million in advanced procurement funds for F-22s in FY 2011. The collective judgment of the Service Chiefs and Secretaries of the military departments suggests that a final program of record of 187 F-22s is sufficient to meet operational requirements. If the final bill presented to the President contains this provision, the President’s senior advisors would recommend a veto.
The emphasis is in the original. The veto threat is the first of the Obama administration, and reflects a strategic shift backed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates away from expensive weapons designed for large-scale, conventional warfare and toward simpler systems geared for “assymetrical” conflicts like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The House bill includes $130 billion in funding to support operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere — which makes some wonder whether Obama would carry out his veto threat.
“Is he bluffing? I wish I was clairvoyant and could answer that question for you,” Gingrey said by phone, shortly before the House vote. “I would hope that he’s bluffing. But if he’s not, I think he’s making a bad mistake — let me put it that way — for the defense of this country. I think he’s making a huge mistake.
“If he vetoes this defense authorization program for 2010 on the basis of that, then he has got that wrapped around his neck and on his shoulders. He and no one else can take responsibility for killing that program,” the Marietta congressman said.
The fight is over spending, jobs and military philosophy.
“In the past several months, Air Force leaders have consistently stated before Congress and to the media that they have a requirement for additional F-22s beyond the 187 that have already been purchased. Repeatedly, military leaders have confirmed that the decision to limit funding to 187 planes is driven by budgetary decisions, not military requirements,” said Chambliss in a prepared statement.
“It is regrettable that the administration needs to issue a veto threat for funding intended to meet a real national security requirement that has been consistently confirmed by our uniformed military leaders.”
The same press release quotes U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson: “The federal government must tighten its belt in these tough economic times just as Americans have to do, but we must also maintain a strong national defense in order to protect our country. This plane is vital to 21st century American military superiority.”
The House could direct even more money toward the F-22, Gingrey said — perhaps for as many as 20 more planes in a second supplemental defense bill.
Democratic support for the F-22 in Congress is considered substantial, but not overwhelming. And remember that U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is one of those advocating a cap on the F-22 program.
This is posted at airforce-magazine.com:
House Appropriations defense subcommittee chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) supports further buys of the F-22 and is optimistic that more will be bought, but he said that it will take some wheeling and dealing in Congress to make it happen.
Speaking with defense reporters Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Murtha said, “I think we can reach a compromise” on Capitol Hill that would allow the F-22 to go forward. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense panel, “feels very strongly about it, and I do, too,” Murtha added.
Another defense blog, Chandler’s Watch, has this from the same meeting with Murtha:
Three of the most senior House appropriators are planning to discuss exporting Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor fighter jet to the Japanese government, which wants badly to buy the stealth plane.
Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said Wednesday that he intends to meet in the coming days with Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. Bill Young (Fla.), Murtha’s GOP counterpart on the Defense subcommittee, to discuss lifting the export ban on the F-22.
The key player in that briefing will be Obey, who in 1998 wrote the legislation that bans the exports of the F-22 mainly to keep secret the aircraft’s radar-evading stealth technology. Obey has not budged since, and it’s unclear whether he is willing to relent.
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