In a scathing letter sent to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he is “extremely disappointed” with “the troubled performance, continued delays, and persistent cost overruns” in the F-35 program. In the letter, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, F-35 Joint Program Office director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work all come under fire for making public statements on the cost and schedule of the program that McCain said failed to match later realities.
Bloomberg reported on Nov. 2 that the Defense Acquisitions Board has requested an additional $530 million for F-35 development, while McCain’s letter suggests the cost overrun could be as high as $1 billion. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and development, also said the fighter’s development phase, which was expected to end in October 2017, may need to be extended to November 2018, according to Bloomberg. “Other senior Department leaders appear to have foreseen this latest delay and cost overrun,” McCain writes, adding “we owe the American taxpayer a thorough accounting of the cost, schedule, and performance of these very expensive weapons system programs.” McCain is seeking answers to 10 questions, which range in topic from a new timeline for completion of the System Development and Demonstration phase, additional funds needed, and capa?bilities that will be available.