This week, the Senate began debating an amendment, backed by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member John McCain, which would strip $1.75 billion for seven additional F-22s from the 2010 Defense Authorization bill.
A vote on the Levin-McCain amendment was delayed yesterday because of alleged procedural wrangling, although one suspects that the sponsors may have had a bad feeling about their prospects and decided to delay the vote and twist some more arms. Levin vowed to bring it back up for a vote, however, as soon as next week.
A number of prominent figures have come out against further F-22 production, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several top Air Force officials.
In summary, we assessed the F-22 decision from all angles, taking into account competing strategic priorities and complementary programs and alternatives, all balanced within the context of available resources. We did not and do not recommend F-22s be included in the FY10 defense budget. This is a difficult decision but one with which we are comfortable. Most importantly, in this and other budget decisions, we believe it is important for Air Force leaders to make clear choices, balancing requirements across a range of Air Force contributions to joint capabilities.
Given that Obama promised to veto any legislation containing funding for more F-22s, it will be interesting to see where this debate leads over the next week or so.