Finding the Sweet Spot

The F-35 strike fighter program “is much more realistic now,” after its most recent restructure, Ash Carter, Pentagon acquisition executive, told lawmakers last week. This makes Carter confident that the program will proceed as planned. “Going too fast is inefficient, going too slow is inefficient. You’re looking for the sweet spot between them, and we think that’s where we are now,” he told members of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel. This is the second restructuring of the program in as many years, but Carter said he is happy with the direction that Vice Adm. David Venlet, F-35 program executive officer, has taken the program. The technical baseline review that Venlet led proved Pentagon officials had been “overoptimistic” in the past and underestimated the cost of F-35 testing, said Carter. “I’m sure that we’ll discover things in flight test. . . . But I don’t think they’ll be changed as dramatic as between two years ago and one year ago and this year because I think our knowledge is much solider,” he said. He also said during the April 13 hearing Defense Department officials need to start looking beyond the F-35’s initial acquisition costs and focus more on the sustainment costs. (Carter’s written testimony)