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Little Bit of Sympathy: Gordon England, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official, said Feb. 12 that 2010 will be an important year for addressing the force structure needs that the Air Force says it has. “We will look at that more as we do the '10 budget and better understand their requirements,” he told the Senate Budget Committee during a hearing on DOD's Fiscal 2009 spending plan (see above). USAF says it needs a force of 86 modern combat wings, which it cumulatively dubs the Required Force, to meet tomorrow’s challenges and protect the nation. But without an infusion of an extra $20 billion on average over the next 20 years, the Air Force says it cannot reach those force levels to the detriment of the nation’s security. “The Air Force issue, they do have older airplanes, and unfortunately—I mean a lot of the money was spent on a relatively small number of F-22s that are very high cost,” England, no friend of the F-22 program, told the committee. “And they do not begin to recover until the Joint Strike Fighter comes along, which is a more affordable, what we call fifth-generation, airplane.” Still, he added in a more conciliatory moment: “These are valid concerns.”