This is not a good sign for Obama’s big push to rein in wasteful defense spending: the House Armed Services committee has made an early move to restore funding for the F-22 fighter jet. Gates wants to finish production on four more planes and then end the program. (Its flaws are many: here’s a useful rundown.) Instead, the committee inserted $369 million into this year’s defense authorization bill to pay for parts for another dozen F-22s. This is basically a sneaky way to commit the government to 12 planes while putting off the bill until later: The F-22 officially goes for $143 million each—and the real figure is more like $350 million when you add in things like maintenance and training. So $369 million won’t even come close to covering their total cost.
The vote was very close (31-30), and there’s still a long way to go—both the House and Senate have to finish marking up the bill, and then negotiators for both chambers will haggle over the details in conference. Still, by coming out so early in defense of the F-22, House lawmakers are sending a pretty blunt signal to the White House that the Gates budget is going to get a bumpy ride. We’ll be covering this very closely next week in a special feature on the defense budget—watch this space.
UPDATE: Barney Frank is introducing an amendment to remove the F-22 funding.