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Gates Orders Delay For F-35 Program

According to an unreleased budget document circulated within the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to decrease planned F-35 aircraft procurement by a total of 122 planes through fiscal year 2015, which includes a cut of 10 for this year. Over $2.8B in F-35 funding will now be diverted from procurement of the aircraft to its research and development ($320 million in 2011; $544 million in 2012; $716 million in 2013; $872 million in 2014 and $356 million in 2015). The government had hoped that an accelerated procurement process would contain costs.

The move is viewed by insiders as a serious setback for the Defense Department’s most expensive acquisition program, an ambitious joint-service tactical aircraft that is designed to maintain United States tactical air dominance. In the long-term, the government still plans on building 2,456 F-35s by fiscal year 2034. The fiscal year 2011 Department of Defense Budget is expected to be sent to the Hill in early February of this year.

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