Young Moves on Raptor Funding

After some delay, Pentagon weapons czar John Young has freed up some—but not all—of the funding that Congress provided in Fiscal 2009 to keep the F-22 production line going until President-elect Barack Obama’s Administration decides early next year whether to keep building the stealthy fighter aircraft or shutter the line. According to a release issued yesterday by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Young has authorized the Air Force “to take steps to spend up to $50 million for advanced procurement associated with four F-22 aircraft” beyond the 183 aircraft already under contract. (These four F-22s apparently correspond to the four Raptors that OSD intends to request in the next war supplemental to replace F-16s lost since 9/11 in the war on terror.) Young wrote, “In January, the next Administration can decide to obligate additional advanced procurement funds, up to the Congressional $140 million ceiling, to support up to 20 F-22 aircraft.” Young stated that, based on industry input, advance procurement of four aircraft now, coupled with additional advance procurement in January, “will bridge the F-22 line with little or no additional cost.” OSD did not request funds to buy more Raptors beyond 183 in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 budget request. However, the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization act includes $523 million added by Congress to procure materials and long-lead-time parts for an additional lot of 20 F-22s beyond 183. But the lawmakers stipulated that only $140 million of that amount could be used until the new Administration makes a production decision. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said yesterday he anticipates that there will be a contract “soon,” based on OSD’s announcement. He said the money for the full purchase of the four F-22s will be in the war supplemental.