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Gates: F-35 STOVL Variant 'On Probation'

Secretary Of Defence Cites Numerous Delays In The Program

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates on Thursday announced a series of efficiencies decisions designed to save the Department of Defense more than $150 billion over the next five years primarily by reducing overhead costs, improving business practices and culling excess or troubled programs.  Most of the resulting savings will be used by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force to invest in high priority programs that strengthen warfighting capabilities.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates

In anticipation of an era of modest defense budget growth, Gates launched a comprehensive effort last May to reduce the Department’s overhead expenditures.  The goal was to sustain the military’s size and strength over the long term by reinvesting those efficiency savings in force structure and other key combat capabilities.  Specifically, the military services were directed to find at least $100 billion in savings that they could keep and shift to higher priority programs.  To achieve the savings targets, service leadership conducted a thorough and vigorous scrub of bureaucratic structures, facilities, programs, business practices, civilian and military personnel levels, and associated overhead costs.

Among those "troubled programs" is the STOVL variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  Gates placed the Marine Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the JSF on the equivalent of a two-year probation because of significant testing problems. As a result, the development of the Marine variant will be moved to the back of the overall JSF production sequence. To fill the gap created from the slip in the JSF production schedule, the Department of the Navy will buy more Navy F/A-18s, and extend the service life of 150 additional Hornets. The Navy also plans to develop a new generation of sea-borne unmanned strike and surveillance aircraft as a cost-savings measure.


STOVL F-35

The Air Force plans to consolidating two air operations centers in the United States and two in Europe, consolidating three numbered Air Force staffs, save $500 million by reducing fuel and energy consumption within the Air Mobility Command, improving depot and supply chain business processes to sustain weapons systems, thus improving readiness at lower cost, and reduce the cost of communications infrastructure by 25 percent, all for a savings of some $34 billion over five years. Some of those savings will be spent on additional Reaper UAV systems, as well as the development of a new long range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber designed using proven technologies. Air Force officials say that approach should make it possible to deliver this capability on schedule and in quantity.

 “While America is at war and confronts a range of future security threats, it is important to not repeat the mistakes of the past by making drastic and ill-conceived cuts to the overall defense budget," Gates said.  "At the same time, it is imperative for this Department to eliminate wasteful, excessive, and unneeded spending.  Indeed, to do everything we can to make every defense dollar count.”

FMI: www.defense.gov

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