(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - November 24, 2008: To avoid unnecessary taxpayer spending, Defense Department officials here are only partially funding the expansion of F-22 Raptor aircraft production, leaving the decision for further expansion to the incoming presidential administration.
John J. Young Jr., the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told members of the air and land forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in a Nov. 19 hearing that he has approved $50 million for advance procurement for four F-22s.
DOD officials will include the purchase of these four aircraft in the second fiscal 2009 supplemental budget request, he said.
The decision on whether to use the rest of the $140 million allocated in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act for advance procurement for up to 16 more F-22s will be up to the President-elect Barack Obama administration in January, Mr. Young said. Procurement of the four F-22s provides a bridge to give the new administration every option with the program. "The department is acting responsibly, consistent with (Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates') commitment and congressional direction, seeking to ensure that each tax dollar is used carefully and efficiently," he said.
DOD officials are delaying the advance procurement on the remaining 16 aircraft to save taxpayer money should the President-elect Obama administration decide not to purchase the aircraft, Mr. Young said. However, he acknowledged, if the new administration delays its decision on the F-22s past January, it could face higher costs from the manufacturers.
The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes advance procurement for the F-22s until March, and if the decision on the remaining aircraft doesn't come until then, there is a very real chance the cost for the planes could go up, Mr. Young said. However, he cautioned that the estimates for those higher prices are based on industry estimates that haven't been negotiated. "I'm not ignoring the industry estimates, but I'm also not granting them credibility, and so ... if we do nothing until March, I could face -- and that's what I was told by industry -- a cost, which I would seek to negotiate away on behalf of the government," Mr. Young said.
Countering committee members' claims that he was acting in defiance of Congress by not funding all 20 aircraft, Mr. Young said the law doesn't require him to buy the planes all at once, and his goal is to save the taxpayers’ money.
"Can I buy that advance procurement as four plus 16, instead of 20, and impose no additional cost on the taxpayer and preserve the total flexibility and option of the next administration to come and discuss with the Congress whether they want to buy the airplanes behind the advance procurement? And that is the option, having convinced myself that that is possible, we sought to execute," he said.
DOD officials have done a legitimate analysis of the F-22 program, and though some Air Force officials may disagree, Secretary Gates said he believes the department is on its way to the right mix of aircraft, Mr. Young said.
"From Secretary Gates down, there has been a hard look at that analysis and a view that it is a higher priority to do other things in the Defense Department than buy additional F-22s at this time," he said.