The Blog

Senators Pushing Back On F-22, C-17

4:48 PM, Apr 29, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has obtained a letter now circulating among members of the Senate and calling for Secretary Gates to maintain production lines for both the F-22 and the C-17 "until the final publication of the next Mobility Capability Study and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review." The push back is being orchestrated by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and while the letter is still circulating for signatures, I'm told that Senators Inhofe, Bennett, Chambliss and several Democrats have already offered their support.

The letter warns against an overcorrection in favor of counterinsurgency and urges Gates not to jeopardize America's "air hegemony" by ceasing production of two aircraft that provide critical airlift and air-to-air capability:

However, just as our nation made a strategic error in permitting our ability to successfully prosecute counterinsurgency campaigns to wither and atrophy after the Vietnam War, we must not make a similar mistake and undermine two of the unique foundations of our nation's military strength: hegemony of the air and our unprecedented airlift capability. As you correctly stated this January, "our military must be prepared for a ‘full spectrum' of operations, including the type of combat we're facing in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as large scale threats that we face from places like North Korea and Iran." Therefore, we are concerned the termination of production of the F-22 does not appear to be supported by any analytical study commissioned by the Department of Defense or the Air Force. In addition, though the decision to end production of the C-17 at 205 aircraft was supported by the 2005 Mobility Capability Study, this Study was criticized by the Government Accountability Office for underestimating our nation's future airlift requirements. We are also unaware of any risk assessment that has been performed based on the Combatant Commanders' requirements as to the decision to cease procurement of the F-22 and C-17.

Regarding the F-22, unclassified extracts of the Air Force's Sustaining Air Dominance Study state "180 F-22s was not enough" and the Department of Defense's TACAIR Optimization study concluded the procurement of additional Raptors "was the best option." On April 16th, these conclusions were reinforced by the comments made by General Norton A. Schwartz after the F-22 procurement termination was announced. General Schwartz stated that "243 [Raptors] is the military requirement." This appears to be in direct contradiction to your statements on April 6th and 7th that there is no military requirement for more than 187 F-22s.

With the exception of the Joint Strike Fighter, which has a global, rather than domestic, constituency, no DoD program has quite as much Congressional support as the F-22 (there are contracts for the program in 48 states). It remains to be seen whether opposition in Congress will be sufficiently motivated and organized to push F-22 back into the budget over the objections of the administration, but members seem finally to be getting their act together after Gates announced the cuts at the beginning of their Easter recess.

The full letter follows after the jump...

The Honorable Robert Gates


The Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310-1000

Dear Secretary Gates:

One of the greatest responsibilities entrusted to the Congress is to ensure the security of the American people by providing for a strong national defense. With that responsibility in mind, we question the analytical basis for the decision by Department of Defense to terminate the procurement of the F-22 Raptor and C-17 Globemaster III. Accordingly, to ensure the military equipment requirements of the nation are identified through a complete and cogent process, we respectfully request you recommend to the President that production of the F-22 and the C-17 continue until the final publication of the next Mobility Capability Study and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.

As you well know, in order to maximize the probability of success in military operations rests with the development and execution of strategies that are comprehensive and well thought out. However, recent history has shown major threats to our national security can arise suddenly and in unexpected regions of the world. Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and the events of September 11, 2001 prove this hypothesis. In addition, the difficultly in determining when and where a threat may arise is also compounded by the uncertainty as to what tactics and strategies our enemies may employ. Accordingly, we fully support and encourage your initiative to re-establish counterinsurgency warfare as a fundamental and widespread capability in our nation's Armed Forces.