Robbing F-35 to Feed LRS-B

The Air Force is likely to trim funding for the F-35A to help make up the gap between the Fiscal 2017 base discretionary budget request and planned spending for the year, said Katherine Blakeley, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, on Feb. 1. Right now, the F-35 program accounts for 42 percent of the Air Force’s total modernization budget for its top nine acquisition programs, Blakeley said, plus it has had software issues and has seen a flattened funding profile in recent years. The F-35 “is just where the money is,” she said. Cuts to the F-35 program also make sense because the Air Force will want to protect funding for the Long-Range Strike Bomber, KC-46 tanker, Compass Call, JSTARS, and investments for space and cyber, Blakeley said. And, she said, while Congress is likely to resist cuts to acquisition programs, there may be less pushback on the F-35A. “I think at this point it’s kind of a problem child, and so … you won’t have quite as much resistance in Congress to cutting it as with something like the A-10,” Blakeley said. The Pentagon is expected to release its Fiscal 2017 budget proposal on Feb. 9.