Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the Air Force is facing toughs decisions in dealing with its share of the anticipated $450 billion cut in defense spending for the Pentagon over the next 10 years. In order to protect its top modernization projects—the F-35 strike fighter “at an appropriate level,” a new bomber platform, and the KC-46A tanker—the Air Force will scale back other programs, Schwartz told This Week in Defense News, a CBS TV news show, in a segment airing on Dec. 11. “We will do less of other things in order to protect those programs,” said Schwartz. He noted that the Air Force is now at the point where further cuts would mean not only less depth in key mission areas, but also less capability. He said the service has not yet factored the effect of the much more severe defense cuts under the 2011 Budget Control Act’s sequestration clause. “We’ve only had a couple months to deal with the $450 billion number,” he said. “Then we’ll go to the next step.”
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.