The Government Accountability Office, in a just released report, is recommending that the Pentagon further stretch out production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Congressional watchdog agency believes that would enable testing to catch up with production and ultimately lower the overall price tag. (See “Data Points: The Wrong Number,” for GAO’s projected JSF funding.) GAO complains, “Low-rate initial production will begin this year with almost the entire seven-year flight test program remaining to confirm aircraft design.” (This concurrency argument is not new.) An inadequate 2008 budget topline has led the Pentagon to slow production over the future years defense program—already causing heartburn in the Air Force—but DOD disagrees with GAO over limiting production rates to no more than 24 per year through 2010, maintaining that the current acquisition strategy “provides the most effective balance of technical risk, financial constraints, and the services’ operational needs.” The Pentagon does not believe “a major manufacturing or design flaw” is likely and the potential for “that risk is more than offset by the certainty of higher unit costs” if the production were strung out further.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.