Dr Rebecca Grant probably isn't going to get offered a job in the Gates team.
In a strongly worded brief, the respected air power analyst argues that the USAF did have a cogent, established need for another 60 F-22s - but never had a chance to present it before Gates slammed a gag order on all senior officers involved in the budget process.
Gates kept Bush-Rumsfeld holdovers in crucial program analysis posts and formed a small team to cut the budget in secret, a technique he mastered as CIA director. Next, in February 2009, Gates did what no previous Secretary of Defense had done. He directed top uniformed officers to sign non-disclosure agreements pledging not to talk about the budget process – even to other senior officers in their services.
The result was that no officer could talk about any of the analysis work without defying the Secretary's orders. Grant also points out that if the USAF really had no need for the extra aircraft, service chief Gen. Norton Schwartz could have said so at any time last year - but didn't.
It makes a lot of sense. Recall, too, what Maj Gen Jay Lindell, director for Global Power Programs in the USAF's acquisitions office - and the head of the team responsible for determining the best mix of F-22s and F-35s - said last month at our own Defense Technology and Requirements conference.
Asked about the "optimal ratio" of F-35s to F-22s, Lindell said: "It depends on what we can afford but the studies and analysis show a mix with an increased number of F-22s". The argument rested mainly on the F-22's higher speed and air-to-air capability, translating into fewer aircraft needed to cover a given area: in air-to-air, six F-22s were worth ten F-35s.
Lindell pointed out later that part of the USAF analysis reflected the fact that a 24-aircraft squadron was more efficient than an 18-aircraft squadron, because both have the same test and support equipment and in some cases need the same minimum number of specialist technicians.
So there was a "military case" for more F-22s; but Gates made sure that it was never presented. As Grant concludes: "Air Combat Command, whose airmen fly and maintain F-22s and other fighters, is left to pick up the pieces after this shattering break in faith."