Squeezing out More F-22s

The Air Force wants Congress to press forward on keeping the F-22 production line open. During the April 9 hearing of the Senate Armed Services AirLand Subcommittee (see above), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) asked the Air Force witnesses, Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell and Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, to square recent comments by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about preserving a decision on the F-22 line for the next Administration with the Air Force’s position that it needs a decision on future funding for any more lots by November. “How would these positions be in agreement?” Lieberman asked, noting that Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne had earlier indicated that he agreed with Gates. Hoffman, the Air Force’s senior uniformed acquisition official, said it is a matter of cost to exercise an option to continue a production line. “Do you do it in the most efficient manner?” he posited, saying that advance notice is critical to lock in another purchase and avoid any cost growth in the program. He pointed out that, even with an additional $600 million to buy four more F-22s at the end of lot nine—a move approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, using supplemental war appropriations—the line will only stay open an additional two months. To deliver an additional lot of 24 F-22s beyond lot nine, the Air Force would require $595.6 million in Fiscal 2009 for advance procurement. If a decision is not reached by November, the shutdown of sub vendors will begin and the cost to restart those suppliers will go up every month afterward, Hoffman said. He referenced the case of the B-1 bomber, which the Carter Administration canceled, but then the Reagan Administration brought it back. The program would have been less expensive had the production continued from the start.