Cough It Up

In a bipartisan appeal, senior members of the House Armed Services Committee have called on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to release funds authorized by Congress in Fiscal 2009 to keep the F-22 production line flowing uninterrupted until the new Administration—which we now know will be led by President-elect Barack Obama—decides on the fate of the fighter program. In an Oct. 31 missive, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), HASC chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), ranking member, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) chair of the HASC air/land forces subcommittee, and Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, urge Gates to obligate the $140 million in funds that Congress allotted to sustain F-22 production until March 2009, thereby giving the Obama White House time to decide. “A decision not to bridge the current contract by not obligating this $140 million would effectively preclude the procurement option by dramatically increasing the cost of procurement because of line closure actions taken that would have to be reversed,” they write. According to the letter, Pentagon weapons czar John Young turned down an earlier Air Force request to release the funds, which the Congressmen said did not appear consistent with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s position to keep the Raptor production option open to the new Administration. The Congressmen said the bridge funds “are immediately required to complete the necessary actions for a contract award by Nov. 27, 2008.” Otherwise, the F-22 program would incur substantial production restart costs if the Obama White House decides to keep the line going. Asked late yesterday if the $140 million had been released, a Pentagon spokesperson told the Daily Report that “the DOD is committed to bridging F-22 production to preserve options for the next administration.” (For more, read yesterday’s Wall Street Journal report and an earlier The Hill report).