Gates Explains F-22 Strategy

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week reiterated to senior members of the House Armed Services Committee that his approach to preserving the F-22 production option for the new Administration is “prudent” and “a conscious effort to minimize risk to the taxpayer.” But, he did offer a few new details. In a Jan. 9 letter, Gates states that the decision to release only $50 million of the $140 authorized by Congress for long-lead parts and materials for more F-22s—until the new Administration decides whether to keep buying more F-22s—will not have a detrimental impact on the cost of any additional Raptors. This, he said, is because the not-to-exceed cost estimates that F-22 maker Lockheed Martin provided remain valid until March 16, by which time the Administration of President-elect Obama is required to notify Congress of its F-22 intentions. Gates also notes that the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in an amendment to its Nov. 10, 2008 directive that released the $50 million, authorized the Air Force to purchase long-lead titanium for an extra lot of 20 F-22s. Even if the Obama Administration terminates F-22 production, this titanium could still be used for the F-35 or other programs, he wrote.