This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
The battle over how many F-22 Raptors the U.S. Air Force requires is revealing some nasty infighting as the White House administration change nears.
The Defense Secretary staff has told Air Force planners not to talk to congressional staffers and to work only through the offices of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and acquisition chief John Young.
Insiders on Capitol Hill contend that the Defense Department has been and is continuing to withhold F-22 funds — in defiance of the law and the intent of Congress — in an attempt to punish the Air Force. England is still angry about the service’s success in getting Congress to approve long-lead funding for 20 more aircraft, which would bring the service’s total to 203 stealthy fighters.
However, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has released funds for only four aircraft, which brought howls from aerospace analysts that it is too few aircraft to avoid a shutdown of production between administrations.
The U.S. Air Force’s new chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, is soon supposed to tell the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), how many F-22s the service needs beyond the 183 that are already in the budget.
Schwartz’s budgeters and planners are expected to recommend a force of 250-275, a cut of more than 100 aircraft from the service’s current requirement of 381. The 250 would allow a force of seven squadrons with 24 aircraft each or 10 squadrons with 18 Raptors.
Young points out that there is no money in the Air Force’s budget plans for fiscal 2010 for F-22s. Neither Congress nor the defense secretary want to keep funding F-22 and C-17 production through supplemental defense budgets.
“John is stuck taking direction from England, which I think he agrees with in this case, unlike with the alternative engine for the F-35 [which England attempted to kill],” says a Washington-based official with insight into the affray between the Air Force, Congress and senior Pentagon civilians. “Plus John has people around him who have their own agenda, or are not competent. They had John believing that the numbers being used by Lockheed and the Air Force late last week were from a Rand study on F-22 that has nothing to do with the current circumstances.
“I don’t know where all the [defense] money is going to come from,” he says. “But at least with the F-22 we know what we are getting and have some grasp of the cost.”
A new study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies — whose CEO, John Hamre, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for President-elect Barack Obama’s defense secretary — contends that war costs, manpower costs, underfunded operations and procurement crises in every service will force the new administration to reshape almost every aspect of current defense plans, programs and budgets.
Obama will be faced with contracts worth $70 billion (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, Transformational Satellite, the Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter and a new tanker aircraft) that would be added to current procurement and force modernization plans that total more than $183 billion in the fiscal 2009 defense budget, say Anthony Cordesman and Hans Kaeser, authors of “Defense Procurement by Paralysis.”
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