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Murtha Raises Gates 12 F-22s

UPDATED: F-22 Vote Likely Late Monday; Rep. Dicks Admits "Very Uphill Battle," Notes "No Way We'd Have Votes to Override Veto"

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will not be pleased with the House Appropriations defense subcommittee mark-up of the 2010 defense appropriations bill. The $636.3 billion mark is $3.8 billion less than the amount requested by the Obama administration; but it’s what powerful subcommittee chairman Rep. John Murtha added that will truly gall.

Murtha added $369 million for advanced procurement of 12 more F-22 Raptors, a program the administration wants to kill; added $485 million to “operationalize” five VH-71 Presidential Helicopters, another program the administration wants to end; $560 million more to continue development of a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter; and $674 million was added to buy 3 additional C-17 lifters.

Murtha said he was mindful of Obama’s threat to veto the defense bill if more money was added to buy more F-22s but he believes some kind of agreement can be worked out and that it won’t come to a veto. At least he wants the administration to consider the advanced funding, which Murtha said he just added yesterday, to maintain a production line that can turn out spare parts or replacement aircraft. He believes “in my heart” Gates will eventually prevail, but he at least wants the administration to consider lawmakers concerns and vowed to work with the White House. Murtha said he believes the decision to stop the F-22 buy at 187 aircraft did not come from Gates, rather it came from the White House.

The Air Force’s higher number for F-22s was based on fighting a two front war, the two Major Combat Operations planning construct that is being jettisoned in the QDR strategic review. Murtha said lawmakers would go with the higher figure until the strategy is officially changed. On the presidential helicopter, Murtha said he expected the Obama administration would “see the wisdom” of getting something out of the money already spent on the program.

Colin Clark spoke with Rep. Norm Dicks at an Aerospace Industries Association Lunch after the markup and Dicks conceded that F-22 supporters faced a "very uphill battle. There's no way we'd have the votes to override a veto. If the president is firm on the veto we'll have to take that into account" as the bill moves to the House floor or to conference, when House and Senate lawmakers hammer out the final bill. President Obama has made the administration's position on the F-22 abundantly clear, most recently in yesterday's Statement of Administration Policy. If you read the SAP's F-22 language, there is no waffling: "As the President wrote in his letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 13, if the final bill presented to him contains this provision, the President will veto it." And that sentence is underlined, lest anyone think it just political boilerplate.

On the JSF, Murtha included $5.6 billion for 28 F-35 Lightnings (14 short take off and vertical landing variants for the Marines; 4 carrier variants for the Navy; and 10 conventional variants for the Air Force), $532 million above the request. The Marines also came off well with the V-22 Osprey, a program Murtha favors, with $2.6 billion for 30 MV-22 and 5 CV-22 Ospreys.

Former Marine Murtha said he warned Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Conway that the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program is on thin ice, though he is giving the service time to come up with something. He said the vehicle’s flat bottom and aluminum construction made it too vulnerable on modern battlefields.

Murtha also provided $1.7 billion to buy 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, $495 million and 9 aircraft above the request. An additional $108 million above the request was included for future year buys of F-18s. Also, $1.6 billion will go to buy 22 EA-18G Growler electronic attack jets.

“I have said for the past few years that we must not narrowly focus on the wars of the present, and that we must prepare our Armed Forces for both current and future, unconventional and conventional conflicts, Murtha said. “This legislation represents that balance, and I’m proud of the direction it takes us.” The aerial refueling tanker is “my biggest priority,” Murtha said, and $440 million was provided for tanker development and language was included that allowed DOD to either sole source or dual source the buy and encourages DOD to buy more than one aircraft per month.

Murtha’s version of the defense bill includes $15 billion for 10 Navy ships, 2 above the administration request (1 DDG-51; 1 SSN-774; 4 LCS, 1 more than the request; 2 Intra-Theater Connector ships, 1 more than the request; and 2 T-AKE Auxiliary Cargo ships). This is the first time 1992 that the shipbuilding account was funded for 10 or more ships.

Murtha’s committee essentially went along with the administration’s decision on the reprogramming of the Army’s Future Combat systems program, although $211 million was cut due to “excessive termination liability.” The subcommittee believes the Army should buy more Stryker wheeled vehicles, and boosted the administration’s request by $225 million to $614 million, although the subcommittee did not tell the Army how many to buy. Murtha did cut $1.9 billion from the administration’s request for MRAP vehicles, providing $3.6 billion, because additional money was provided for the MRAP buy in the 2009 emergency supplemental.

Additional program decisions:

• C-130: $903 million for procurement of 5 C/HC?MC-130J and advanced procurement of 20 more.

• C-27J: $319 million to buy 8 JCA.

• MQ-9 Reaper: $489 million for 24 aircraft.

• Wideband Global System: $627 million for the satellite system, $425 million above administration request.

• CH-47: $847 million for 26 Chinook helicopters.

• UH-60: $1.3 billion for 79 Blackhawks.

• MTV: $966 million for medium trucks, $193 million below request due to schedule delays.

• JTRS: $876 million for continued development.

• DDG-1000: $539 million for continued development.

How do you feel about this issue?Let your public officials know how you feel.

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