Air Force Secretary Mike Donley confirmed the Joint Strike Fighter program will breach the Nunn-McCurdy cost growth limits but Congress should expect few changes after the mandated review occurs.
Donley told defense reporters that the Pentagon has already made many of the changes that are needed. “We’ve been taking all the mitigating and corrective actions we would take as if there were a Nunn-McCurdy breach,” he said. How big the breach will be and when it will be reported to Congress, he isn't sure.
And while some in Congress and around the country are hoping that the current problems might lead to the program's death, they can forget about it. “This is a fifth-generation fighter/attack capability. There are no alternatives to that in our system. Yes, you can build the 4.5 generation, enhanced capability F-15 kind of capability. But, really there are no good alternatives to F-35 at this point. This is a program to which we are deeply committed,” he said.
Under the recently revised Nunn-McCurdy laws, the defense secretary must certify the program is critical for national security, there are no alternatives and that the program's management is ship shape.
I asked Donley if the program's problems had discredited concurrency, a key concept that promised faster production rates and lower costs since testing could occur with early production planes instead of building test aircraft and then building early production planes. He said "the jury is still out" but clearly Lockheed is going to have a harder time then ever proving that it works and helps to contain costs.