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Air Power Abandoned: Dropping the F-22

An excerpt from Air Power Abandoned: Robert Gates, the F-22 Raptor and the Betrayal of America's Air Force

 

Robert F. Dorr’s latest book Air Power Abandoned: Robert Gates, the F-22 Raptor and the Betrayal of America’s Air Force was recently released in a Kindle Edition on Amazon.com. In it, Dorr details the successful effort to end F-22 Raptor production, as well as other moves by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates that the author argues crippled the U.S. Air Force. As well as organizational changes and firings, Gates killed a number of defense programs, several of them in the Air Force. In this excerpt, Dorr details some of the steps taken by Gates and the administration to end F-22 production at a mere 187 aircraft, far fewer than the Air Force needed or had requested.

 

On April 6, 2009, [Secretary of Defense Robert M.] Gates announced the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2010 defense budget proposal and said it reflected major changes in the “scope and significance” of Pentagon priorities.

That day, R. Jeffrey Smith and Ellen Nakashima wrote in the Washington Post that Gates would be “restructuring several dozen major defense programs as part of the Obama administration’s bid to shift military spending from preparations for large-scale war against traditional rivals to the counterinsurgency programs that Gates and others consider likely to dominate U.S. conflicts in coming decades.”

The op-ed piece contains falsehoods. It refers to “assessments” that “concluded that, over time, a progressively more sophisticated mix of aircraft, weapons and networking capabilities will enable us to produce needed combat power with fewer platforms.”

Some in Washington dubbed the day of Gates’ pronouncements as “Black Monday” because of the staggering dollar value of the big-war programs that Gates proposed to cut.

Gates proclaimed his intention to end production of the F-22. Gates also said he did not want to pursue a development program for the Next Generation Bomber “until we have a better understanding of the need, the requirement and the technology.”

Air Power Abandoned

Air Power Abandoned: Robert Gates, the F-22 Raptor and the Betrayal of America’s Air Force; by Robert F. Dorr; Kindle Edition; 168 pages

He would, Gates said, move the U.S. military “in a different strategic direction.” Gates promised to “ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements.”

He wanted to shut down the Marietta production line at the earliest possible juncture consistent with funding commitments and cost efficiency. Remarkably, key members of Congress, who never saw a defense program they didn’t like – and who had supported the F-22 the previous year – raised little immediate opposition. One exception was Congressman Tom Price, a Republican, whose district included the F-22 assembly plant. Price called the decision “outrageous” and accused the administration of being “willing to sacrifice the lives of American military men and women for the sake of domestic programs.”

The Georgia delegation, where the plane was assembled, and Connecticut lawmakers, who represented the engine maker, argued for a bigger and bolder force of the superfighters. Connecticut’s delegation cautioned Obama in a letter that stopping F-22 production would hurt the U.S. industrial base, and said they would work to put more jets back into the budget. But the lawmakers had had other concerns, as well, and had little ammunition to support their arguments.

 

Capitulating to Gates

[Secretary of the Air Force Michael B.] Donley and [Air Force Chief of Staff Norton A.] Schwartz say they were neither pressured nor ordered to co-author “Moving Beyond the F-22,” a humiliating Washington Post op ed piece on April 13, 2009 that signaled surrender to Gates’ priorities. Production of the F-22 would end not at 381 airframes but at 183 (an additional four airframes that bring the actual total to 187 were not mentioned). The leaders would “not recommend that F-22s be included in the fiscal 2010 defense budget.” The F-35 program would continue as planned.

“The op-ed piece was my idea,” Donley told me in an interview for this book. “The decision was, am I going to back the Secretary of Defense in his decision or am I going to go around him to get the F-22 back in. One of the issues was going around the Secretary to Congress. I wanted to build credibility to get the Air Force back in synch with Department of Defense plans. I saw an opportunity to reinforce support for the F-35.”

A congressional liaison source within the Pentagon told me that Gates had mentioned to Donley that an op-ed would be helpful in combating congressional resistance to a halt of the F-22 program. Both Donley and Schwartz told me there was no such hint, suggestion or comment.

The op-ed piece contains falsehoods. It refers to “assessments” that “concluded that, over time, a progressively more sophisticated mix of aircraft, weapons and networking capabilities will enable us to produce needed combat power with fewer platforms.”

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...