Senate Dodges Obama Veto Threat

On Monday, Gates said that by axing the program to fund the F-22, there "would be a substantial increase in the number of jobs in the aerospace industry."

"The F-35 already has 38,000 employees," Gates said. "That will go to 64,000 in FY '10 and 82,000 in FY '11 if we don't drain money away from it."

"To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed to provide our troops with the weapons that they actually do need," Obama wrote in July 13 letters to Sens. McCain and Carl Levin, D-Mich., urging them to remove the funding.

Debate over other elements of the broad defense bill will continue throughout the week on the Senate floor.

Full House and Senate Committee Have Voted for F-22s

The president's veto threat paid off.

In late June, a White House statement said "the President's senior advisors would recommend a veto" if the bill sent to the president's desk contained F-22 money.

That statement said the White House "has serious concerns with a number of provisions that could constrain the ability of the Armed Forces to carry out their missions, that depart from Secretary Gates' decisions reflected in the President's Fiscal Year 2010 Budget which carefully balanced fiscal constraints, program performance, strategic needs and capabilities, or that raise other issues."

"I think the President has outlined projects, as well as the Secretary of Defense, that he believes are not necessary spending," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said June 25.

A total of 187 of the F-22 jets are already under contract but Gates has said it isn't logical to order more.

"That is all that we need to buy, that is all we can afford to buy and that is all we should buy," Levin agreed today on the Senate floor.

But other lawmakers who ultimately lost the debate felt otherwise.

"The Air Force has repeatedly warned that stopping this program at 187 aircraft would place our nation at 'higher risk', and that is not a risk I am willing to accept," Lieberman said in a statement when a Senate committee approved the measure. "Continued production of the F-22A will guarantee that we have balanced combat air forces in the future to support the transition between the F-22A and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programs."

"It is regrettable that the administration needs to issue a veto threat for funding intended to meet a real national security requirement that has been consistently confirmed by our uniformed military leaders," Chambliss said June 25.

On June 25, the House passed its $680 billion version of the defense authorization bill with an F-22 provision included. Unlike the Senate version, the House version calls for the government to buy additional parts for the F-22, but doesn't specify how many aircraft should be purchased.

On June 26, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the bill, sending it to the full Senate after voting in favor of more F-22s.

Some lawmakers have also said F-22s could help protect the nation from seaborne cruise missiles and Somali pirates. Gates said last week that fending off pirates is "a job we know is better done by three Navy SEALs."

Back in April, Gates announced plans to cut programs from the Defense Department that no longer made sense, including the plan to eliminate the F-22 fighter program as expected.

His proposed changes needed to be approved by Congress before taking effect.

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