A Matter of Disagreement:

The Government Accountability Office’s bombshell assertion that the F-35 program has grown in cost by $23 billion in one year is way off the mark, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young told the House Armed Services tactical aviation panel last week (see above). The GAO said the Pentagon has axed out large, needed chunks of the F-35’s flight test program to find funds to finish development, which is over budget. However, Young said the changes made were “valid and pragmatic,” as they shift some “very expensive” flight testing onto surrogate flying and ground-based laboratories, and show that the program is trying to “manage within their resources.” Young said he expects the Pentagon will, indeed, have to add some money to finish development, but it will only be a “modest” amount. A Lockheed Martin official said the most recent estimates from the F-35 program office “show only about a three percent increase in procurement costs.” According to Young , “The program team has built a very solid test plan” and, although test flights on the actual aircraft have been reduced, these actions won’t affect what needs to be learned. “People criticize it, but the truth is it’s a more thoughtful and balanced test program that we believe we can execute,” Young told the panel. Although the GAO trumpeted the fact that F-35 production and operating costs have leaped in the last year, it made scant mention of the fact that these are affected by raw materials and fuel costs, which have soared, and over which the program office has no control.