Sometime during his first couple of months in office, President-elect Barack Obama will have to confront one of his first big decisions about U.S. defense policy and budgets.
And it’s a thorny one.
Specifically, Obama and his as-yet-unnamed circle of top defense advisers will have to determine whether to continue spending roughly $4 billion a year to buy F-22 Raptor fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin.
They might decide, as the Bush administration has, that the F-22 is superfluous and that the money is needed for other priorities. On the other hand, the Air Force, according to defense analysts and consultants, wants to buy at least 60 more of the $180 million jets.
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Jim McAleese, a consultant with close ties to the Air Force, told a Reuters conference in Washington last week that the service was putting "all its political capital" into buying more F-22s beyond the 183 on order.
"I think the Air Force will work very hard to build a consensus" around the idea of buying 60 more F-22s under a three-year agreement, McAleese said.
Time is of the essence, according to the Air Force and Lockheed, which says it needs hundreds of millions of dollars soon to keep the F-22 production line up and running. If the line begins to shut down and then is restarted, F-22 advocates say it would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of buying more planes.
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