President Barack Obama may have Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor fighter jet in his sights as a prime target for cutting big-dollar defense programs.
Defense observers said Wednesday that Obama, in his nationally televised speech, signaled that he's not buying into Air Force, industry and congressional arguments to continue production of the $180-million-a-copy stealth fighter jets.
In its first four weeks in office, the Obama administration has been lobbied hard by Lockheed and other F-22 supporters to reverse a Pentagon decision to halt production of the aircraft. F-22 advocates, citing economic concerns, have buttressed their arguments with assertions that 95,000 jobs are endangered.
A week ago, Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, signaled that the service would compromise with the Defense Department civilian leadership and ask for considerably fewer F-22s than the 381 it has long sought. Other defense officials have suggested buying 60 more planes.
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So when Obama, in his only real comment on defense programs, said he would "reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use," more than a few people took notice.
The president's words were similar to ones Defense Secretary Robert Gates has used several times in recent months to justify his opposition to building more F-22s.
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