“I strongly support Secretary Gates' decision to restructure a number of major defense programs,” he said. “It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, was supportive but less enthusiastic.
He called the budget “a good-faith effort,” adding that he appreciated “the hard work and thoughtful consideration Secretary Gates and his staff put into these proposals.”
“However, the buck stops with Congress, which has the critical constitutional responsibility to decide whether to support these proposals.”
Mr. Lieberman praised Mr. Gates' decision to scrap a new helicopter for the president in favor of continuing to use the Sikorsky craft made in the senator's home state, as well as a proposal to build a new generation of strategic submarines.
He objected, however, to the proposal to cap production of the F-22 Raptor at 187 jets. Each Raptor costs $140 million.
“If we stop the F-22 program now, our industrial base will suffer a major blow before the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter reaches full-rate production,” he said. “This would result in the loss of thousands of jobs in Connecticut - the skilled workers we will need to support the F-35 in just a few years.”
Mr. Lieberman said he will hold hearings to assess the proposals and “modify them” in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Some defense contractors, such as Lockheed Martin Corp., have warned of huge layoffs if programs are cut.
The proposed cuts also could reduce aircraft carrier production at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News, Va., shipyard.
The new budget would also:
• Provide $11.2 billion for the F-35 Lightning, or Joint Strike Fighter, which would increase the number to 30 jets, from the current 14. The program, which Mr. Gates prefers over the F-22, could end up costing $1 trillion to manufacture and maintain 2,443 planes.
• Eliminate a $26 billion satellite system.
• Cut back on armored vehicles for the Army's $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program.
• Expand the Army and Marines and allocate more funds for Special Forces and intelligence capabilities.