Make That 20 More F-22s

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) said Thursday morning that he expects “at least” 20 F-22s to be funded in the Fiscal 2010 defense budget. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Abercrombie, who leads the air and land forces panel of the House Armed Services Committee, said it was the sense of Congress last fall that 20 more of the new fighters are needed, if only for “breathing room” to make thoughtful decisions about national strategy and the role of airpower. He said that continued obstruction on the F-22 program by Defense Secretary Robert Gates would not stand, asserting that the Pentagon needs “to learn who’s in charge.” He shrugged off the fact that the June 17 committee budget markup only covered 12 F-22s, saying that if he’d had his way, he would only have put “one dollar” in as a “placeholder” for continued production. He said that there is strong bipartisan consensus that if the committee could have found more money, it would have made the number 20 Raptors. Abercrombie also said he’s confident House and Senate appropriators will support additional F-22s. His own panel only had a “pond” of funds to work with, he said, but the full House has a “lake” and the conference has an “ocean.” The money will be found, he said.