July 13th, 2009
04:25 PM ET
9 years ago

McCain backs Obama opposition to funding more F-22 jets

Sen. McCain is fighting to discontinue funding for seven new F-22 fighters.

Sen. McCain is fighting to discontinue funding for seven new F-22 fighters.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama is getting the help of his former political rival in seeking to stop a defense program his administration no longer believes is necessary, but some in Congress want to continue.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who ran against Obama in the 2008 presidential election, wants to remove funding for constructing seven more F-22 jets.

The program is included in the Senate's defense authorization bill even though Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he opposes building any more of the planes. The White House said it would veto a bill that funded more of the jets.

On Monday, McCain and Senate Armed Services committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) introduced an amendment to strip the funds from the bill. The Armed Services committee, on which McCain serves, approved the amendment.

"Neither the president nor the Pentagon asked for F-22s or the alternate engine in the budget request," McCain said Monday on the Senate floor. "Secretary Gates has consistently opposed the need for additional F-22 aircraft and has indicated on a number of occasions that additional F-22 aircraft are not required to meet potential threats posed by near-term adversaries."

McCain even tweeted about his opposition to his followers on Twitter, saying he was "fighting the good fight."

The Pentagon wants instead wants to focus on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Obama reiterated his veto threat if the defense bill includes funding for more F-22s, sending a letter to McCain and Levin on Monday saying bluntly "we do not need these planes."

"To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed," Obama wrote.

The F-22 has been the center of much debate on Capitol Hill. The Lockheed Martin jet has never been used in Afghanistan or Iraq, but supporters contend it is needed to fight more sophisticated enemies who might confront the United States in the future, like China or Russia. Those supporters, including Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Georgia Republicans, also note the thousands of jobs that will be lost if the F-22 program is halted.

"The federal government must tighten its belt in these tough economic times just as Americans have to do, but we must also maintain a strong national defense in order to protect our country," Isakson said in a statement last month. "The F-22A is the most sophisticated fighter jet in the world with the latest stealth technology to reduce detection by radar ... The administration
needs to seriously consider the ramifications of vetoing legislation that authorizes funding for our military men and women and their families as well as critical military construction projects."

The Defense Department argues that the 187 existing F-22s represent a sufficient supply in the event of future need. In a letter to McCain and Levin, Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, write that further fighting capabilities will be met by both the F-35 and unmanned aerial vehicles. The letter was released to CNN Monday by McCain's office.

"It is important to note that the F-35 is half a generation newer aircraft than the F-22, and more capable in a number of areas such electronic warfare and combating enemy air defenses," said Gates and Mullen.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. EDT

Filed under: John McCain • Obama administration • Pentagon
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    I think he decided it's easier to do this than to fight the Defense Department's decision. Don't let this fool you as a YES.

    July 13, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. Marc

    Let's see, on one side the Pentagon, the White House and the Armed services Committee of the Senate. On the other side Saxby 'no problem to call veterans traitors

    July 13, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Marc

    Let's see, on one side the Pentagon, the White House and the Armed services Committee of the Senate. On the other side Saxby 'no problem to call veterans traitors' Chambly.
    Is there really a doubt on which side is right?

    July 13, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. Melissa

    McBush finally did something right. I'm shocked.

    July 13, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. Steph

    What do all the other senators think? Why on earth do I care if McCain agrees or disagrees with our current president?!?!

    July 13, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. Corbett

    This is just more of the same old bullsh- Wait, this actually sounds very reasonable. Both McCain and Obama agree on not buying things that nobody wants or needs? It must be some sort of Socialist plot.

    July 13, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. Kevin B

    Mr McCain has always understood that military-industrial complex is a self feeding machine, if the DOD or the president did not request this aircraft, why in the world world do we need it.

    Only the southern republican zealots in the congress would insist on this expenditure in a time when americans of all backgrounds are suffering economically.

    July 13, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  8. Mark of Saint Louis

    too bad McCain jumped on the Obama bandwagon. The Obama approach is typical of Libs: cut defense and make America more vulnerable.
    Good Job!

    July 13, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  9. Army Vet

    So, we're going to spend millions building jets which we already have, and even the Joint Chiefs say we don't need. Sounds like normal government spending to me, what's the problem? Why spend it on actually taking care of soldiers and their families, or getting effective fighting equipment for the current missions?

    July 13, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. JS007

    So for the people pushing this the main concern is not national defence, but jobs in their districs. Good for Obama and McCain standing up to this.

    July 13, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Aaaaaaand, where is the F-22 manufacturing plant? Georgia perhaps?

    July 13, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  12. RI Moderate

    The F-22 is incredibly impressive, but this is the right decision

    July 13, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Do the words "lucrative defense contracts" ring a bell? These boys think that it is business as usual in D.C. You know: $600 hammers, $8000 toilets etc.

    Way to keep your eyes on the ball Obama and Mc Cain.

    People like Isakson will tryo to get this unnecessary expenditure approved by tugging at the ole patriotic heartstrings. It is not going to work this time bubba. Even if the contractor of said jets promised you a nice little kickback in return, it is NOT going to fly!

    July 13, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. TCM

    sure, why not....further weaken our country's defense, and cause even higher unemployment...hey McCain, why don't you jump over the fence too, like Spector?

    July 13, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Bill from GA

    Maybe Lockheed could re-tool to build high-speed rail cars at the Marietta plant. Have major components made in surrounding states; interiors made by laid-off workers at Blue Bird bus company in Middle Georgia. just an idea

    July 13, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. Larry

    Nice job John McCain.

    If you look inside that defense budget you'll find billions more of wasteful spending. I know, I used to work for a defense contractor.

    July 13, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. John, a proud veteran

    Senator McCain is right on the money. We already have plenty of these planes. China and Russia now have more sophisticated ways other than a shooting war to make our lives difficult if they want to. We already could bomb them back into the stone age if we wanted to. This is the age of robots and drones. Put the newly unemployed to work on these. What we need now is better computer security.

    July 13, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. In John we trust

    Once again, John's the man.

    July 13, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Mich

    We don't need it. In our histroy we have heard those words alot.

    F-4 , F-15 , F-14, Corsair, Hellcat, Thundercheif.

    These are examples of some airplanes in point or another that congress said we didn't need. Once you hide your wepons will be the point that you find you needed most. The F-22 is the future of air combat. BILL CLINTON

    July 13, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  20. sue

    Oh, be careful McCain you will be kicked out of the Repub party for agreeing with President Obama. LOL

    Actually it is rather nice to hear a Repub acting like an adult.

    July 13, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. Bill NY

    Mr McCain figures "if I can't crash em, nobody can"

    July 13, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  22. Obama is one step for World Peace

    These two Georgian republicans no doubt support increased military spending. I wonder if they are evangelicals or fundamentalists ? Strange how SOME of those people love their weapons

    July 13, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. GCB

    WOW... the only reason John McCain supports the President on this issue is because he came off looking very stupid when he stood up and brought this issue up during a Press Conference and Obama slammed him down!!! So here he is trying to save face yet again.

    July 13, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. Marc

    TCM – The Pentagon, the DOD, the Armed Services comittee and any reasonable militar analist disagree with your whinning fear mongering rethoric.

    July 13, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    Bravo to the President and Senator McCain for removing spending on the F-22. Sure, it is impressive but really not needed. There is no great air war coming unless Al-Queda develops an Air Force. Even if China happened to start an air war, the existing crop of F-18, F-16, and JSF are far more technically advanced than any thing China has in its aresenal. Sure, blame President Obama for everything under the sun folks if it makes you feel better, but this is a smarter use of money by the President and the Pentagon.

    July 13, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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