No F-35 Term Limits?

The charter of the F-35 strike fighter program is under revision, and one of the proposed changes is to remove a restriction on the tour length of the program executive officer. Removing the term limit would eliminate the temptation for vendors who didn’t like what a PEO was doing to simply wait him out. F-35 program spokesman Joseph DellaVedova told the Daily Report on May 29 that the PEO would “simply serve at the pleasure” of the Defense Secretary for as long as may be needed. From its inception, F-35 leadership has, by design, seesawed: when the program manager was a Navy or Marine officer, he reported to the Air Force service acquisition executive and had an Air Force deputy. After about two years, the Air Force deputy would become the PEO, and would report to the Navy SAE and have a Navy or Marine deputy. The F-35 PEO is Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan; he reports to the Navy’s Assistant Secretary for Research, Development, and Acquisition Sean Stackley, and has a Navy deputy, Rear Adm. Randy Mahr. Interestingly, Stackley’s F-35 second-in-charge is supposed to be the Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, but as that job is vacant, Secretary Michael Donley—in his capacity as the top Air Force acquisition official—sits in on the all-hands F-35 executive meetings as the No. 2 civilian. Any charter changes have to be approved by the two service Secretaries and the Defense Secretary. This may take some time.