Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, said he does not oppose the F-35 strike fighter program. Speaking at the Military Reporters and Editors conference last week in Rosslyn, Va., Dempsey took the opportunity to clarify remarks he made during testimony on Capitol Hill in October, during which he questioned whether the Pentagon could afford all three variants of the fifth generation aircraft given the tightening defense budget. The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are counting on the F-35 to replace their aging legacy fighters and ground-attack platforms. “I didn’t have cross hairs on the F-35,” explained Dempsey of those comments. Instead, he said he was trying to explain the potential impact that sequestration could have on the Defense Department and its weapons acquisition programs if the congressional joint deficit committee fails to agree on how to cut the nation’s deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If no agreement is reached, the Pentagon could face up to a $1 trillion in cuts through 2021. “I want everyone to know, this will affect everything,” said Dempsey of that scenario during his Nov. 18 address.
Whether the F-35 fighter will get new engines from the Air Force’s cutting-edge Adaptive Engine Transition Program is a question that needs to be resolved at the Defense Department level, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers May 17—and he anticipates an answer in the 2024 budget.