Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Friday he’s hopeful that Congress won’t ultimately fund more F-22s. “I’m not as downbeat as some would think about the results from the committee mark-ups,” which included additional F-22s (12 for the House side and seven from the Senate Armed Services Committee, with key lawmakers predicting up to 20 in the end). Donley told reporters at the Pentagon that cutting the fighter force was “a difficult choice.” He continued: “We made it. And I think the Congress still has an opportunity to take a deep breath and really determine whether their judgment to proceed here is really better than that of the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the [Joint Chiefs of Staff] and the leadership of the rest of the department.” Donley said he understands that the Pentagon is asking a tough thing of Congress in shutting down warm production lines on the C-17 and F-22, but he thinks “we still have opportunities in the weeks ahead to reiterate” Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ position. Donley acknowledged Congress’ role in determining defense posture, saying “This is their role; this is what they do.” However, he mentioned the White House’s notification that adding more F-22s “would be grounds for a potential veto.” Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chair of the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said recently that a veto threat was an empty one, considering that in 2010, “every single member” of the House is up for re-election, and would handily override any veto of a defense bill while troops are in combat.
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.