Monday, July 1, 2013

F-35: Pentagon mulls delays to program for short term savings?

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported:
The Pentagon is weighing a delay to its most costly and controversial weapons program, the F-35 stealth fighter plane, as part of a short-term cost-saving move, according to defense officials.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is considering the delay as one option presented by a task force to cut Pentagon spending over the second half of this decade.

But officials stressed no decisions have been made and that senior advisers to Mr. Hagel are recommending against the option, noting that it wouldn't save enough money to justify the move.

Defense analysts said delaying full production of the F-35 would save between $1 billion and $2.5 billion a year between 2015 and 2019, the time frame being examined by the Pentagon.
That set off a flurry of reporting echoing the WSJ take.  Others, however, say that's not the case:
The Pentagon has no plans to delay full-rate production of the F-35 fighter jet under development at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant, a top Pentagon official said Friday.

The possibility of a delay was raised Friday when the The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon was weighing a delay as one option put forward by a task force to reduce spending over the second half of the decade in response to sequestration.

While a task force report may raise a recommendation to delay production, “it sounds like 180 degrees from reality,’’ said the Pentagon official, who did not want to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. 
Everything I've read up to the point of the Wall Street Journal report says pretty much what the "Pentagon official" is saying.  Their report seems "180" out from "reality."   The program has put up great testing and development numbers, IOC dates have been set, squadrons are being formed, pilot training is up and suddenly to save a few billion short term (it will likely cause a higher per aircraft cost to do so), they're willing to risk all of that?

Probably not.  Pentagon planners have an obligation to put every option available before decision makers.  That's likely the case here.   The fact that something is an option, doesn't mean it is a viable or serious option.  And, in the case of the F-35 program, my guess is the option to delay is not either viable or serious.


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