Merkley Statement on F-22 Program Funding

Merkley Statement on F-22 Program Funding

Washington, DC
- Today, Senator Merkley joined 57 members in removing funding for the F-22 program from the National Defense Authorization Act.  The funding would have amounted to $1.75 billion to be used to construct seven additional planes.

Senator Merkley issued the following statement on the vote:

“As this vote approached, I carefully weighed the arguments in favor and in opposition to the program.  Ultimately, I found that the F-22 procurement program was no longer serving our national security needs and should be ended so we can direct our defense spending to mission-critical systems.


“Two key arguments arose in support of continuing the F-22:  its relationship to Oregon jobs and its potential relationship to the Oregon Air National Guard. 


“At the same time, a compelling argument was made in opposition of the program.  Any weapons spending must serve our national security needs.  On this key criterion, the F-22 falls short.  President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Norton Schwartz unanimously concluded that its production should be terminated. 


“The plane has never been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan; it has never met its target mission capability rate; and cost overruns make continued per plane production more expensive than for next generation F-35s.


“However, there are other factors that must be addressed as well.  A number of F-22 parts are made in Oregon and there is an argument to be made to support the F-22 production funding to protect current jobs.  On the other hand, the Air Force expects to ramp up production of the F-35 and Oregon has every expectation to get an equal or better share of the contracts to produce parts for the F-35.  Meanwhile we would be getting a better fighter at a lower cost.  Further, we have to carefully examine if funds spent on the F-22 would be better spent on other weapons systems or other national priorities (such as infrastructure improvement or the development of clean energy) that would result in job creation. 


“Another major argument for procuring additional F-22 fighters is that these fighters might eventually get assigned to Air National Guard units, including the unit deployed in Portland.  To accomplish this vision, however, another 60 planes would be required at a cost of $15-20 billion.  Regardless of the prospects of this year’s amendment, this additional procurement is extremely unlikely.  And none of the seven planes produced this year under the unamended defense authorization bill would be assigned to Oregon.  It is a better bet to pursue the F-35 as an eventual replacement for the aging F-15 fighters based in Oregon.


“It is always tempting to continue current weapon procurement programs.  But when our top national security advisers – including the leaders of the Pentagon and the Air Force – argue that our national security is best served by terminating a program and investing in new programs, we should listen carefully.”