Sunday, July 17, 2011

U.S. F-35 cost hike raises from $771M to $1.15B

Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin told the Pentagon that the first batch of F-35 fighter jets would cost approximately $771 million more than anticipated. Lockheed was mistaken. The real cost increase is roughly $1.15 billion.
The “higher figure includes the roughly one-third share of the overrun absorbed by Lockheed Martin and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney,” according to
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that Arizona Senator John McCain plans to oppose “a Pentagon request to transfer $264 million from other accounts” to start paying for that original estimated $771-million increase. According to The Hill, McCain issued a statement in which he said that he will oppose reprogramming requests “unless they can be fully justified to the American taxpayer.”
Elsewhere, in the New York Times, Gordon R. England, former secretary of the Navy and deputy secretary of defense under George W. Bush, suggests ways that the government could cut spending at the Pentagon.
England recommends that Washington should “cut the [defense] department’s civilian workforce before reducing the size of the military force”; “do more to encourage the sale of defense equipment to our friends and allies abroad” and “put a moratorium on starting any new procurement programs. Instead, it should use the money to increase the rate of production on existing ones.”
Apart from echoing steps that the Joint Strike Fighter program has already taken (selling to allies abroad), a moratorium on new procurement programs and more money for existing ones would certainly bode well for the F-35.
But as Mark Thompson at Time Magazine’s Battleland blog points out, that thinking makes sense considering England’s former employers: Honeywell, Litton, General Dynamics, and — you guessed it — Lockheed Martin.
Over at the Huffington Post, Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists, is calling for the U.S. government to show its support for American workers by fully funding the F-35 program.
Buffenbarger lauds the F-35’s potential technological and tactical advantages, and makes the case that “when the F-35 takes wing, working Americans will benefit from tens of thousands of high-skill, high-wage, high-tech, family-supporting jobs.” Even now, he says, the F-35 program contributes “at least 127,000 American jobs and creates over $12 billion in economic activity.”
He continues: “Make no mistake: Congress must continue to support the F-35 program which maintains our global leadership, militarily and economically, while keeping our commitments to our closest allies.”
All of this highlights an interesting crossroads in the debate over the fighter program. Where does the U.S. government turn when stuck between an increasingly expensive and delayed military acquisition, and the potentially positive (and necessary) economic impact the program could have for a country that is in ever more need of one?
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