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Gates Says New Bomber Project Will Proceed: Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday a new "long-range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber" will be "a major area of new investment for the Air Force" and gave every indication that funding to start this acquisition would be included in the President's forthcoming defense budget request for Fiscal 2012. "It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service," he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing. He was detailing the Defense Department's efficiency initiative and how it will impact the Pentagon's Fiscal 2012 budget and corresponding five-year spending plan. It appears that funding for the new bomber is made possible, at least in part, due to the projected savings that the Air Force can achieve via reduced overhead. Gates said the new bomber "will have the option of being remotely piloted" and will be "developed using proven technologies." That approach, he said, "should make it possible to deliver this capability on schedule and in quantity." The new bomber, like the additional components in a joint portfolio of deep-strike capabilities, "should be a high priority for future defense investment, given the anti-access challenges our military faces," he said. (Gates-Mullen transcript)