Razor Close

The new Air Force bomber—the aircraft portion of the Pentagon’s new long-range strike “family of systems”—is still not in the Fiscal 2012 budget that is due for rollout early next year, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Tuesday. “I believe there is a growing conviction that the Department will need to have a penetrating long-range strike capability in the future . . . [and] it is certainly our hope that we will see a manifestation of that in the Fiscal ’12 budget,” Schwartz told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. However, “the specific parameters for the platform are still under consideration,” he noted. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will decide those. “Nothing’s final until it’s final,” Schwartz added, and the specific requirements “would be part and parcel of the decision . . . to proceed with a program of record.” Schwartz said that, along with the system’s “parameters,” Gates will also establish “expectations” about cost. Schwartz said that it might take until December 19—last call for budget decisions—for the LRS choices to be made. He told the Daily Report that there remain fierce opponents to a new LRS aircraft at high levels of the Pentagon, who are “not rolling over.” However, the Air Force has “made presentations” to Gates, and Schwartz believes “we’re razor close” to getting a decision.