Rumsfeld says Defense Department not ready to approve F-22

The Defense Department will delay a decision on whether to approve production of the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-22 fighter jet until the Bush administration finishes its review of U.S. military strategy, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress Thursday.

The Pentagon is weighing whether to buy the first 10 of an eventual 339 F-22s for $2.1 billion. The decision was slated for December and slipped because the aircraft had not finished its required tests. The tests were passed and the decision was then said to be scheduled for this month.

"I am not prepared to make the F-22 low-rate initial production decision until the review is complete," Rumsfeld said in a letter delivered today to the four congressional committees with primary control over the Pentagon budget, Bloomberg News reported.

Rumsfeld asked the four committees to keep the program funded through Sept. 30, using $675 million of F-22 money earmarked for later years.

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