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

McCain backs Obama opposition to funding more F-22 jets

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.f22jet0713.gi.jpg caption="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. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Mission Accomplished John....

    July 13, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  2. frank from florida

    For once, even the defense dept.(they know best, Ha Ha) say they don't need any more of these aircraft. What wrong with the politicians? Oh, that's rite, they're politicians! I'm glad to see John McCain is back to being the good guy he's been for almost his entire life. (After getting seduced by Sarah Palin's politics of pandering)

    July 13, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. come on CNN!

    Steph July 13th, 2009 3:05 pm ET

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

    Because he is a senior senator you idiot.

    July 13, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Stop building them. We have enough of them here at Langley to spread around the country. Not to mention they bust out windows whenthey fly overhead.

    July 13, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Traj

    Mccain really isn't so bad. He is actually more moderate than he is consevative, and I for one appreciate his stance on this one. Of course, my president is always right.... Love you Mr. President and First Lady..

    July 13, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. Mmmm, tastes like hypocrisy

    Hmm, "critical military construction projects." Funny how republicans get to complain about Socialism when it comes to the Stimulus/Recovery Act and the use of government money to create jobs, yet turn around and whine about job losses when the administration shuts down an unnecessary defense program. It must be fun to be a hypocrite, I should give it a try.

    July 13, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. Trade Freedom for Security, Lose Both

    We don't need F-22's any more. The Pentagon and CIA are now distributing the lyrics to Kumbaya to all our enemies as part of our new way forward. Now, everyone sing along...

    July 13, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    @ TCM, who said "further weaken our country's defense"

    Typical misrepresentation. It's almost artithmetic. It does not weaken us to stop making something of which we have enough. Nobody suggested destroying the ones we've already got. Ergo, this maintains status quo...it does not degrade our defense....particularly in light of th eintent to focus on a more technological advanced alternative. Leave the decisions to the rational people and go back to playing in the sandbox.

    July 13, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  9. Michael Templer

    we spend more money on the Military than the rest of the world combine. We need mwrap vehicles, better body armor, better training more soldiers with language skills. Yes these are great systems and it feels great to be 10 or 15 years ahead of everyone else but we need what we need to fight today's battles. Finish the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq first then we can look at adding these systems. The missile defense system that we keep pissing Russia off with doesn't work and it never did. SDI never worked it was designed to bankrupt the Soviet Union mission accomplished not the US. You can't have everything while people who are out of work or can't get healthcare. the Defense budget is Half of the discretionary budget.

    July 13, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Kyle

    Well we offically have 141 in service with another 36 currently under construstion at 137 million a piece. If the conservatives want to cut back on some spending this is a small piece/price at 3 billion but it is better than nothing

    July 13, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Are we not allowed to advance our self defense unitl all the dope smokin'n, non working liberal have once again helped themselves to all the tax payer money they can steal? That is the Obama idea and he will never finish stealing our money. AND FOLKS IT IS OUR MONEY NOT THEIRS, LIBERALS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT.

    July 13, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. cardiff kid

    The F-22 Raptor is a money pit. Short and simple. One plane, not including deveopment costs, runs $138 million. It costs $44,000 per flight hour to maintain. Much of it to repair the constantly damaged radar absorbsion coating. (An ageing F-15 costs $14,000 less per hour to run). The F-22 does not, and will not, have a helmet mounted cueing system, the "look at it and shoot" system currently used on a number of currently operational aircraft and on the F-35. In contrast, the F-35 is significantly cheaper to acquire. Anticipated costs are $65 to $120 million per aircraft depending on configuration. (One version of the F-35 is capable of vertical take off and landing). The F-35 can carry more ordinance and is more flexable in application. McCain and Obama got it right.

    July 13, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. All American

    I think our government should just disband our current military and outsource it to other countries to the highest bidder.

    Actually, lets just go to an all volunteer military or militias. Might as well with all the cuts to the DOD.

    July 13, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. Joe

    July 13th, 2009 3:06 pm ET
    Mark of St. Louis wrote:
    "too bad McCain jumped on the Obama bandwagon. The Obama approach is typical of Libs: cut defense and make America more vulnerable. Good Job!"

    Actually, military spending cuts began in the early 90s under Bush 41 as a result of the end of the Cold War and his cuts were deeper than Clinton's. This is the problem with Americans, we believe all the generalizations that our party wants us to believe. Lets start thinking for ourselves people.

    July 13, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. Mark

    Mitch, try to read a little more carefully. Congress is trying to fund the F-22. Sec of Defense says they don't need it. So go ask Rush why Bill Clinton is responsible.

    July 13, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. The Party of NO stood calmly by for 8 year while the shrub raped and pillaged America, so, why would we listen to you now?

    A republican being supportive of President Obama?

    Did anyone else feel that??

    The earth just shivered on it's axis.

    July 13, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  17. dave

    read the article - If Bob Gates, McCain and Obama all say stop buying F-22 and the F-35 is better

    let's stop buying F-22

    July 13, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. Tim, Seattle

    Dont worry about TCM, he's headed for a stroke because his 'values' have been rejected and his team is getting beaten badly in the court of public opinion. Its tough to be reduced to a whining, irrelevent relic of the GOP . Let him work himself into hateful frenzy.....thats when you know they have been beaten.

    TCM.....lifelong, self-loathing loser

    July 13, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  19. Ann

    My husband flies the F-22. Even he would agree with McCain, there are much more important places for our defense dollars. I have no problems with staying ahead of the technology curve, but do we need to replace every air-to-air jet on a 1:1 basis? No. The F-35 also has an air-to-air component to their mission, at a much cheaper basis, despite the fact that there are no air-to-air adversaries anywhere on the near horizon.

    I'd much rather see us funding technology to serve troops on the ground than to double our stock of high-end toys for the fighter pilot mafia running the AF.

    July 13, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Susan (Michigan)

    The Defense Dept. has been trying to stop these planes for years. Thank God someone in Washington is finally listening!

    July 13, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. Denna

    @ TCM July 13th, 2009 3:17 pm ET - 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?
    TCM, You certainly seem to have a lot of time to express your opinions, all wrong-headed. Senator McCain is just being the man he was before running for POTUS. Just because he has sided with President Obama, and rightly I might add, does not mean he is weak or irrelevant. By-the-by, why don't you get a job instead of blogging all day.

    July 13, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. johnnie

    john mccain needs to get on a jet out old of the country,and take palin with you,and david gergen, and the gop with you,as well ... mccain is a joke...... who cares what he thinks or says (cnn) it means (nothing)

    July 13, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. Cerena

    Who cares what or who McBush supports....HE IS ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT....like his party.

    July 13, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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