Christine Fox, the Pentagon’s top independent cost estimator, made clear in her testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the developmental challenges confronting the F-35 strike fighter program “should not be interpreted as a signal” that the aircraft faces insurmountable technical problems. Indeed, she said, the Pentagon has had similar issues in the past with aircraft programs like the F-22 and C-17. “Those programs looked very troubled in the same stages” but “ultimately produced” capable aircraft, she said, albeit with changes including reduced planned production buys. That caught the ear of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member, who asked her if, similarly, she anticipated cuts to F-35 production numbers. (After all, wouldn’t that signal the advent of the infamous “death spiral” of production cuts and corresponding unit-cost spikes?) Fox responded that she was “not trying to suggest” that. (See It’s Official) (Fox’s prepared remarks)
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.