Bond Claims F-35 Nunn-McCurdy

Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.) thinks the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter program faces an imminent breach of Nunn-McCurdy cost-monitoring thresholds. Bond, in whose state rival Boeing builds F-15s, made the comments during the March 12 hearing of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee with the Air Force’s top leadership. Citing a just-released Government Accountability Office report indicating that the F-35 program now has a total estimated lifetime price tag approaching one trillion dollars and will experience more delays, he said he was told that “there will most likely” be a breach—meaning program costs have risen sharply. “But somehow,” he said, “the Defense Acquisition Board is claiming scheduling delays, which delays the announcement of what I believe is inevitably a Nunn-McCurdy breach and possibly delays our taking action in this committee.” Bond also laid into the Air Force leaders for what he characterized as the service’s “unrealistic” fighter modernization efforts. “I remain extremely troubled and concerned about Air Force management … and its unwillingness to consider alternative courses of action to meet current and future threats,” he told Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Gen. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff. The current strategy of building the F-35 as well as Lockheed Martin’s F-22 fails to address the impact on the fighter aircraft industrial base, he said. (Such as giving Boeing more fighter work with additional buys of F-15s.) Sole sourcing the F-35 to Lockheed Martin was a “stupendously bad decision,” he claimed. And with cost overruns and the number of F-22s capped, there will never be enough F-22s to supply the Air National Guard, making it impossible to fill gaps when older fighters are retired, he said. The Air Force needs to come up with a “Plan B,” such as pursuing a mix of F-22s, and modernized F-15s and F-16s, he said.