Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz has confirmed what most everybody assumed would transpire, that the oft-delayed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will most likely breach the Nunn-McCurdy statute that requires the Pentagon notify Congress if a weapon’s cost is spiraling out of control.
“I would say it is a possibility and maybe even [be] likely,” Schwartz told reporters at the Air Force Association’s air warfare symposium,” Defense News reports.
The Nunn-McCurdy Amendment requires congressional notification at a 15 percent unit cost increase and program termination at a 25 percent unit cost increase over the original baseline cost estimate; considered a “critical” termination. Although, it’s not really that critical because the amendment says that if the defense secretary certifies the program as vital to national security, then it continues on its course.
Since SecDef Robert Gates said the F-35 was “the root of the core of our combat tactical aircraft in the future,” while visiting a Lockheed Martin facility in Texas last summer, the program won’t be terminated. However, that doesn’t mean the overall buy of some 2,500 aircraft might not be trimmed if costs continue to climb at the rate they are. Cutting the buy, of course, boosts per unit costs.