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Obama Shoots Down F-22?

7:57 PM, Apr 6, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Contrary to early reports quoting sources close to DoD's budgeting process, Secretary Gates announced today that the Obama administration plans to terminate production of the F-22 this year, capping the total number of aircraft at just 183. Ending production of the F-22, a far more capable air superiority fighter than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (which still has many obstacles to overcome before entering mass production), will seriously jeopardize America's current dominance of the skies. It will also be extremely controversial in Congress, where a not insignificant number of legislators represent the workers who assemble and manufacture the aircraft's component parts. It's no surprise then that Secretary Gates made his announcement on the first day that Congress is out for Easter recess.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD contacted several members of Congress this afternoon for their reaction to the announcement. We will post their responses as they come in, and the office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison just emailed this statement:

"Americans know that the best defense is staying ahead. As we look at the details of Secretary Gates' budget proposal, we must prevent any cuts that will let us fall behind the military capability of other nations," said Sen. Hutchison. "In the coming weeks, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, of which I am a member, will hear testimony from industry and defense experts. I will press them to ensure that proposed cuts in this budget will be replaced with the next generation of equipment to maintain the superiority of American defense."

It's hardly a declaration of war, but the announcement from Gates was something of a surprise -- it's possible that Gates sought to maintain the element of surprise given the industry forces that will likely rally to oppose the decision. It's not yet clear whether Congress will fight to fund additional airframes despite the Pentagon's budget, but when Congress reconvenes there is certain to be a healthy debate.

More statements to follow tomorrow, and Senators Chambliss and Isakson put out a joint statement this afternoon promising that they would "work to overturn the secretary's recommendation." Expect more of that kind of rhetoric in the days ahead.