Hill Letter To Obama: Keep Building Warplanes

Tuesday, 20 Jan 2009 01:12 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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President-elect Barack Obama is meeting with his national security team his first day in the Oval Office, but already waiting on his desk may be the very first business correspondence from the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. – Capitol Hill.

About 200 members of Congress have signed a letter urging Obama to continue building F-22 stealth fighters, according to a report in DefenseNews.

The lawmakers concerned have directed that the letter arrive at the White House on Jan. 20 -- hoping that it will gain visibility by being prominently on his desk in those first hours after his noon swearing-in, notes an aide to Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.

The new Chief Executive must certify the continued production of the state-of-the-art fighter-bomber or the F-22 assembly line will be shut down.

According to DefenseNews, the letter makes a point to the new President that if the national security arguments are not strong enough, consider the job losses to the beleaguered economy if production stops.

At stake, say the lawmakers who signed the letter, are the more than 25,000 Americans that work for more than 1,000 companies that make parts for the F-22.

“Moreover, it is estimated that another 70,000 Americans indirectly owe their jobs to this program,” the lawmakers write. “The F-22 program annually provides over $12 billion of economic activity to the national economy,” they conclude.

The U.S. Air Force is already slated to receive 183 F-22, but the lawmakers voiced concern that the number was lacking if the nation were to continue to lead the world in airpower.

According to the concerned lawmakers, several nations are already ramping-up their own generation of stealthy, twin-engine fighters to confront the F-22.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has not been the biggest fan of the new warplane, arguing to lawmakers that the expensive planes have yet to be used in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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