“It’s a big problem,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said about Wednesday’s move by the House Armed Services Committee to continue production of the F-22 beyond the 187 fighters the Obama administration wants. In a late night vote, led by Republicans on the committee, the HASC voted 31 to 30 to add $369 million to the 2010 budget for advanced procurement of 12 additional F-22s.
When Gates laid out his 2010 budget back in April, he said there was “no military requirement” for more than 187 F-22s and the administration planned to shut down the production line after that number was reached. The money added by the HASC, although certainly not enough to buy 12 more F-22s at a reported cost of $200 million a copy, would keep the production line open indefinitely.
“Frankly, to be blunt about it, the notion that not buying 60 more F-22s imperils the national security of the United States, I find completely nonsense,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing today. That comment may have come in response to a story yesterday on Congressional Quarterly’s site that Gen. John Corley, chief of Air Combat Command at Langley, Va., wrote a letter to Senator Saxby Chambliss, R- Ga., that said buying only 187 F-22s jeopardizes U.S. national security. Corley reportedly said 381 F-22s would be the ideal number but that a fleet of 250 fighters would be tolerable.