WASHINGTON, 15 Sept. 2010. Federal funding for one of the top U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) procurement programs -- the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- is headed for trouble in Congress as the Senate Appropriations Committee moved Tuesday to reduce next year's purchase of the nation's latest jet fighter-bomber by 10 aircraft from the DOD's original request.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted to pay for production of 32 F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft, which is 10 fewer than the Pentagon had request for fiscal year 2011, which begins 1 Oct. The committee's plan to cut F-35 funding next year would have to be approved by the full Senate, reconciled with what the House decides to do, and be signed by President Obama before becoming law.
The Senate Appropriations Committee move to cut F-35 funding is yet another indication of military funding reductions expected in coming years. F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin last week announced that more than 600 of its executives -- one-quarter of the company's total executive population -- took up a corporate offer to leave Lockheed Martin with financial incentives. Lockheed Martin's executive reductions will come at the vice president and director levels. Also last week defense giant Boeing Co. consolidated its military aircraft business from six divisions to four to position the company for anticipated defense budget reductions.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday also proposed military spending reductions in the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program by reducing funding for the sophisticated new surface warship by one vessel from the Pentagon's 2011 request. The Senate Appropriations Committee also has not agreed to fund an alternative engine for the F-35's primary Pratt & Whitney engine.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a fifth-generation, single-seat, single-engine stealth multirole fighter that can perform close air support, tactical bombing, and air defense missions in three variants --- conventional takeoff and landing; short take off and vertical-landing; and aircraft carrier-based model. It is designed to replace or augment the U.S. military's F-16, A-10, F/A-18, and AV-8B tactical aircraft.