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Carter Orders JSF Changes

UPDATED: Congressional AIde Says F-35 Still A "Pig;" Lockheed Defends Program In his most significant action since the Senate confirmed him, Ash Carter has issued an acquisition decision memorandum moving full rate production to November 2015, to withhold $614 million from Lockheed Martin and only pay it "to reward measurable progress..."

Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, notes that the cost estimate on which he relies "has a 50 percent chance of" being wrong, which would seem to indicate it isn't very solid. At the same time, Carter says the Revised JET estimates a $2.8 billion increase in the SDD phase of the program, which he believes "is a credible and realistic basis for the JSF program plan..."

Carter’s revised plan drew a stinging critique and call for a production freeze from Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional budget expert now with the Center for Defense Information. "Carter's half measures and attempt to get the JET II toothpaste back into the tube guarantee only one thing: the continued collapse of the self-destructing F-35 program. The only way out is to suspend further production until a radically revised flight test plan is executed: make it a fly before buy program," Wheeler said in an email.

Over the five year defense plan, Carter says the country will get 122 fewer aircraft from the 2010 budget baseline. While Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his team have clearly concluded the program faces substantial challenges, Carter also says the program is basically sound. "On the other hand, no fundamental technology or manufacturing problems were discovered in the Review, nor were the performance requirements for the JSF changed as a result of the Review," he writes.

A congressional aide lambasted Carter's actions. "A 13-month slip seems very optimistic when press reports today suggest they are already at least 11 months behind the 2008 schedule. How did they get from the JET 30-month slip to 13? Maybe I'm too cynical, but this seems overly optimistic. The phrase 'lipstick on a pig' comes to mind. The JSF is still an ugly, stinking pig," the aide said in an e-mail.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Chris Geisel said the company is, "committed to the successful execution of the program restructure and is focused on performance and affordability. We are pleased Secretary Carter acknowledged that no fundamental technology or manufacturing problems were discovered in the (department-wide) review and that we have the possibility to pursue larger aircraft buys within the planned budget."

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