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Senator urges DoD: Do better job defending F-35

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, whose home state includes the Lockheed Martin mega-plant that assembles the F-35 Lightning II, has vowed to put incoming Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on the spot about it during his Senate confirmation hearing. Cornyn sent Carter one of those letters on Wednesday that only people in Washington send -- he could've just called Carter on the phone and told him he's angry, but he wanted to make a public airing of how confused and "concerned" he's been about recent developments with the program.

Bottom line, Cornyn is worried that DoD isn't making the case loudly and clearly enough that it capital-m Must puruse the F-35, not only because it'll be the greatest fighter jet of all time, but because the military services have no fallback if it goes away. So why is the Building letting peaceniks and pinkos walk all over it?

Wrote Cornyn:

"I am concerned that the DoD's failure to sufficiently defend and advocate for the F-35 program has enabled and even invited unwarranted criticisms from many corners, including calls for partial or complete cancellation of the program. It is my hope that, as deputy secretary of defense, you would be a champion of the F-35 program, using your voice to remind Congress that this weapon system is one our nation cannot do without. I strongly encourage you to step up your defense of this key program."

Yeah! So no more candid assessments about how you're worried about under performance and increased costs on the largest weapons program in history! After all, nobody likes a negative nelly. Cornyn's constituent -- what's that company called again? Lock-something? - is just another American small business trying to struggle its way through this tough economy.

Cornyn continues with a series of specific questions he wants Carter to answer in writing ahead of his confirmation hearing. He wants Carter, as DepSecDef, to commit to a more "proactive dialogue" with the international members of Club F-35; he wants Carter, like a schoolboy taking an essay test, to explain why it's "imperative" for the U.S. to field the full program of jets; and there's something else: Cornyn is still miffed that DoD has been buying dumb ol' fourth-generation fighter jets, and he wants it to nip that in the bud:

"In the FY12 budget request, the department cut approximately $12 billion from the F-35 production budget and returned just $4.6 billion back into the development budget. The department then spent a significant portion of the remaining $8 billion on 4th generation F/A-18E/F aircraft. Continue to procure less capable 4th-generation aircraft is a questionable strategy given that our adversaries are already developing their own 5th-generation aircraft, and cutting F-35 production funding in order to fund these 4th-generation aircraft makes little sense. Can you assure me that this will not occur again in the future?"

Carter's answers to all these questions will make for fascinating reading, so stay tuned.

h/t: POLITICO Morning Defense

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