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In Surprise, HASC Adds 8 F-18s; $635M Moved to Pay

UPDATED: With LINK to HASC Summary of Authorization Bill They were up. They were down. Supporters of the F-18 thought yesterday that they had been offered help getting eight more F-18s added to the HASC version of the defense authorization bill. But word late in the afternoon was that the HASC chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton, would vote against it, probably dooming the effort. So they were further down.

But late last night Rep. Todd Akin, ranking member of the seapower and expeditionary warfare subcommittee, and other F-18 supporters were pleasantly surprised; the committee approved the planes, moving $635 million from other accounts, most of it from the Overseas Contingency Operations Transfer Fund . In a press release sent out at 10:47 p.m., Akin offered a short statement: “I am very encouraged to see my amendment to authorize eight more F 18 Super Hornet fighters to address the serious fighter shortfall which looms in the not so distant future." Obviously, Akin and his aides meant to say he was encouraged to see the amendment approved, but that's what happens when you've been working straight through for more than 12 hours -- after several long days before that.

These will be F-18 E/Fs -- Super Hornets -- not F-18 Gs, Growlers, the electronic warfare version of the plane. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other members of the Obama administration had repeatedly said the military was buying enough Growlers to keep the F-18 line going. Akin and others have argued that the uncertain delivery date of the carrier version of the F-35 and the so-called fighter gap mandated the purchase of more Super Hornets.

Given the markup language which we reported on last week -- requiring that the Pentagon use the savings from multiyear authority and plough it back into the program --  it's likely that Rep. Todd Akins, ranking member of the seapower and expeditionary warfare subcommittee, and his fellow F-18 supporters argued behind closed doors that in these tough budget times it makes all the sense in the world to take the 11 percent savings from the multiyear and build more fighters.

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