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GAO Report Says JSF Costs Continue To Skyrocket

Total Pricetag Now Estimated At $337 Billion

Pentagon officials are disputing a report from the Government Accountability Office which claims the Joint Strike Fighter program is at risk of overrunning its originally projected costs by as much as 45 percent.

The GAO told Congress Tuesday costs for the JSF, already the most expensive weapons program of all time, is now expected to cost another 38-billion dollars beyond previous estimates. That would bring the total for the 2,458 planes planned to $337 billion, up from the $240 billion dollars budgeted in 2001.

Michael J. Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office, told the House Armed Services Committee, "Midway through development, the program is over cost and behind schedule."

Sullivan says Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense are preparing a revised total for development, "expected to be much larger than what is now budgeted."

Lockheed Martin has flown a production-spec F-35A conventional aircraft -- and is working on short takeoff/vertical landing -B variant, as well as a carrier-based -C version for the Navy -- but still needs to finish flight testing and software development, and refine the manufacturing process. The US military is waiting to buy at least 1,700 of the planes to largely replace its F-16 fleet. Eight other nations have contributed funding for the program, and expect to buy hundreds more.

John J. Young Jr., the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, told the Washington Post he disagrees with the GAO. He says the Pentagon will need a "modest" increase over the currently projected $44.2 billion development budget. He did not specify an exact figure.

Young blamed budget overruns on an otherwise good company which has been late with some work, and, "this has been a well-planned and reasonably well-executed program."

Lockheed Martin has so far declined comment.



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