Obama vows to veto Senate bill with F-22s

Armed Services panel leaders hope letter from Obama will resonate with their colleagues and generate support for an amendment to strip the bill of funding for fighter jets the administration does not want.

As the Senate began debate on the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill, President Obama on Monday pledged to veto any bill that keeps F-22 Raptor fighter jet production lines running after completion of the current order for 187 planes.

In identical letters to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama backed Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to end production of the aircraft with the last four aircraft in the recently enacted fiscal 2009 supplemental spending bill.

"To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed to provide our troops with the weapons they actually do need," Obama wrote.

The authorization measure includes $1.75 billion for seven of the Lockheed Martin-produced fighters next year. Levin and McCain have introduced an amendment that would strip that funding from the bill. McCain said Monday he does not believe he and Levin have the votes right now to pass their amendment.

But he said he hopes the president's letter has a "significant impact on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle."

In a separate letter to Levin and McCain today, Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen similarly decried efforts to boost the size of the F-22 fleet as unnecessary, particularly as the military begins to procure the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more unmanned aerial vehicles.