If You Believe, Clap Your Hands

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said he firmly believes the $550 million per copy flyaway cost for the Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber is realistic, and that the service will labor to make that pricetag a reality by ruling out any add-ons. Answering a question after a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on March 27, Welsh noted that the $550 million sticker is “not the fully-burdened … price” of the airplane—which would include all the development and facilities needed to build it—but simply the cost to “produce an airplane off the line.” That said, “I believe” in the price “because I own the requirements,” Welsh observed, alluding to the fact that he has sole discretion to alter them. “We have all kinds of people who want to add … capabilities to this bomber, and the answer right now is no. Until we get to a point in the program where we understand the trades we will be making” between capabilities and cost, Welsh said he will not approve any changes. “We’re not at that level of maturity in this program,” he said, but the need for “80 to 100 bombers” to replace the B-52, “to fight a major conflict, and provide nuclear deterrence” isn’t in question, he said. “To do that, we believe we’ve got to hold steady on this cost, even if it means it’s not as fancy a gadget as we’d like to have.”