F-22 Debate Reflects Broader Acquisition Challenges
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 15, 2009 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is pressing his point with Congress that the Defense Department doesn’t need more than 187 F-22 aircraft, the Pentagon’s press secretary told reporters today. Video
If the department is forced to buy more than it needs, other defense needs will suffer, Geoff Morrell said.
Gates will address the issue tomorrow with the Economic Club of Chicago, where he will point to the F-22 issue as an example of the acquisition challenges the department faces and the reforms he is promoting.
“F-22 is just indicative of what we are facing in this department,” Morrell said. “We need to rise above narrow, parochial interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our overall national security. We need to change the way we have been conducting business in this department.”
The F-22 issue, being debated on Capitol Hill, is a “vitally important issue” to the department, and Gates is making his and President Barack Obama’s stand on the issue clear, Morrell said. Obama has threatened to veto any bill that funds more aircraft than the Pentagon has requested.
Nobody debates the aircraft’s capability, Morrell said. “This is the best air-to-air fighter that, to date, has ever been built. There is no denying the extraordinary capabilities of this aircraft.
“What is at debate here is how many do you need of that exquisite niche capability for the threats we face, the operations we see ourselves conducting potentially in the future?” he said. “And it is the unanimous belief of all the decision makers in this building that 187 is more than enough to meet the need, particularly when they are used in conjunction with the array of other aircraft we will have at our disposal.”
Morrell called the F-22 issue an example of the choices that need to be made to properly fund U.S. defense. “You cannot continue to be all things to all people,” he said. “There are tradeoffs that have to be made.”
Buying more F-22s than needed will limit the military’s ability to buy other weapons systems and equipment, Morrell said. “It has to come out of something else we do vitally need,” he said.
Such tradeoffs, he said, will be “painful and detrimental to our overall national security if we are forced to make them.”