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Defense chief proposes weapons cuts

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

UPDATED:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday he plans to cut the F-22 fighter jet and other big-weapon systems as part of a "fundamental shift" in how the Pentagon buys weapons and fights wars, including the one in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates, in outlining the agency's fiscal 2010 budget of $534 billion, announced a broad range of cuts that include a new helicopter for the president and limiting to 187 the production of F-22 fighter jets, which cost roughly $140 million each.

"These cuts represent a budget to reshape the priorities of American's defense establishment," he said.

Mr. Gates acknowledged the proposed changes are an "unorthodox approach" to defense spending and are to focus on "wars we are in today and scenarios for the years ahead," including insurgents in Afghanistan.

He called his plan a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and a "profound reform" in priorities for fighting conventional wars.

Mr. Gates also wants to eliminate a new satellite system and a search-and-rescue helicopter while scaling back the Army's modernization program.

He said he consulted with President Barack Obama and top military officers in making the budget.

The plan cuts spending for tanks, fighter planes, ships, missiles and other weapons, which accounted for roughly one-third of defense spending last year. However, more money will be needed to expand troop sizes for the Army and Marines, Mr. Gates said.

The budget is expected to face strong opposition in Congress, where lawmakers are concerned about potential layoffs at such major defense contractors as Lockheed Martin Corp. during the recession. The proposed cuts also could reduce aircraft carrier production at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News, Va., shipyard.

Mr. Gates is said to prefer the F-35 fighter jet over the F-22, and his budget calls for speeding up production of the F-35 fighter jet. The plan calls for manufacturing and maintaining 2,443 of the F-35s, at a cost of roughly $1 trillion.