Dr. John Hamre, a former Deputy Defense Secretary and now president of a major Washington think tank, does not believe the F-22 debate is over. In fact, he suggests it is only beginning. Hamre commented yesterday on Pentagon Chief Robert Gates’ April 6 proposal to cancel the program at 187 fighters. Hamre’s take: “We’ve got an extremely important starting point—the Secretary’s recommendations. But, ultimately, it’s going to have to be OUR decision,” meaning that of the Congress and the public. Hamre, head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is “members of Congress who ultimately are going to have to decide this.” The former Pentagon official noted that today’s cut-weapons effort is the third one that he has experienced during his more than 30 years in Washington. “There is something very unique that happens in these environments,” Hamre noted. “The media conclude, ‘Finally, somebody in DOD is being honest. … Finally, they’re telling the truth.” What is emerging, Hamre warned, is a “landscape” in which “anyone who questions him [Gates] is somehow parochial and self-serving. There isn’t a wider interest to be debated. It’s got to be a narrow and selfish interest.” Hamre charged, “That’s wrong.” He went on to say that, while he is a “huge admirer” of Gates, the media narrative “is evolving into a ‘virtuous Secretary of Defense’ who is now being confronted by ‘venal politics.'” According to Hamre, “That’s NOT what’s going on here. What’s really going on here is a long-term strategic choice that we have to make—we Americans have to make.” (Full transcript of Hamre’s remarks.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.