More from the Post's Dana Hedgpeth on Pentagon spending:
The Pentagon's top weapons buyer made a move Wednesday that temporarily keeps the budget pipeline open for the F-22 fighter jet.
John Young, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the Air Force should spend up to $50 million to buy parts and other supplies needed to build four more F-22s. (See a PDF of the signed procurement agreement here.)
Young said the money "provides a bridge" that will keep spending going until the Obama administration can decide whether to go forward with the expensive weapons program -- or shut down Lockheed Martin's production line in Marietta, Ga. in 2011 as planned.
Young's move comes after congressional leaders on the House Armed Services Committee pushed the Pentagon in two recent letters to explain why $140 million set aside for the plane's suppliers has been in limbo.
Lawmakers argued that any future costs of the F-22 could rise significantly if suppliers were forced to shut down because the money hadn't been released.
"The cost of opening and shutting a production line is really high," said Chris Isleib, a spokesman for Young.
He said Young's decision to authorize money to buy such parts as engine components, hydraulic systems, wheels and other materials for four aircraft will keep the production line open until March. "You want to keep it there especially if there is a question of whether you're going to buy more airplanes," he said.
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace industry analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, said Young's move only "stops the bleeding" on the F-22. He said in the 2009 budget the Pentagon had a choice to put in funding to shut down the plane's production line or fund a long lead-time but did neither.
"Young's buying time for the next administration," Aboulafia said. "That's where the real decision will be made."
He said president-elect Obama's administration seems likely to consider the F-22 a Cold War relic. "It doesn't look great," he said of the F-22's future.
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