The Trillion Dollar Price Tag

The F-35 strike fighter program is expected to cost roughly $1 trillion, adjusted for inflation, over its lifetime, said two senior Senators Thursday. “Put simply, the [F-35] is estimated to cost about 80 percent more than when the program started and about 30 percent more than the current baseline set in 2007,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member, in complaining about the cost growth during an oversight hearing. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), SASC chairman, quoted the same figure. According to the Pentagon’s most recent notification to Congress, the cost to develop the F-35 and procure 2,443 F-35s for the nation is pegged at $379 billion. That leaves more than $600 billion for operations and sustainment. Christine Fox, who manages the Pentagon’s cost estimating office, said the F-35 likely will cost less to operate and sustain than the F-22, about as much as the F-15C/D, but “about 33 percent more” than the F-16 and F/A-18. Pentagon acquisition executive Ash Carter told the lawmakers that the projected sustainment costs are “way too high.” He said “now is the time to face that bill and begin to get that under control.” (Carter-Van Buren-Venlet joint statement) (Fox prepared remarks)