Young Defends F-22 Moves

Pentagon weapons czar John Young told House lawmakers yesterday that his recent actions regarding the Air Force’s F-22 program comply with Congressional direction, minimize financial risk to the taxpayer, and are consistent with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s stated policy regarding the stealth fighter. On Nov. 10, Young signed an acquisition directive, authorizing the Air Force to use $50 million of the $140 million that Congress provided in Fiscal 2009 to keep the F-22 production line flowing without a break until around March. Congress acted to give the new Administration of President-elect Barack Obama some time once in office to decide if it wants to keep buying more F-22s beyond the 183-aicraft program of record. The move was intended to prevent potentially substantial restart costs. But Young stipulated that the $50 million go toward advance procurement only for four F-22s, not the 20 Congress authorized. If the new Administration wants more F-22s than that, it can allocate more of the remaining funds in January without significant additional costs, or could even wait until March to do so without severe cost repercussion, Young said. “It is inappropriate to spend an additional $90 million of advance procurement for 16 aircraft that the nation may not purchase, particularly when that decision can be deferred at limited cost and risk,” he told members of the House Armed Services Committee AirLand panel. He added that “the lack of approximately $2.5 billion” to fully fund the purchase of 20 F-22s in Fiscal 2010 “amplifies the need for prudence and restraint in committing advance procurement funds for additional F-22A parts.” OSD provided no money for F-22s beyond 183 in Fiscal 2009, but said it would keep the option open to new Administration by requesting four F-22s in a 2009 war supplemental. Young said OSD still intends to do that. But the new leadership still would have to come up with the funds for the remaining 16 airframes, he noted.