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Hearing of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee - Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Tactical Aviation Programs


Location: Washington, DC

Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Roscoe Bartlett gave the following opening statement as prepared for delivery:

"The subcommittee meets today to receive testimony on the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force budget requests for tactical aircraft programs for fiscal year 2013.

"We have a number of issues to cover today, but my opening remarks will focus on the F-35 program. The F-35 program has been called the centerpiece of DOD's long-term tactical aircraft planned force structure, with a major commitment of the Department's projected budget dedicated to F-35 acquisition and operations. To date, significant technology and manufacturing capabilities have been demonstrated.

"Yet, after having already made a major commitment of resources to the program, progress in the development and early procurement of the F-35 has fallen significantly short of expectations. Since the beginning of the final phase of development in 2001, the projected cost of the total research and development and procurement programs has grown from $233 billion to nearly $400 billion. Compared to the currently approved baseline, full rate production has been delayed five years.

The committee has supported and continues to support the F-35 program because of the high priority placed on the program by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force and the recognition that a fifth generation fighter is required to operate and achieve the effects necessary in the projected future threat environments.

"However, early-on in the F-35 program, the committee had concerns with the acquisition strategy. In 2005, we disapproved the Department's request for the first procurement funds for F-35s, citing the request as premature, given the maturity of the development program. Each year we have continued to express concerns regarding rushing into procurement too soon and planning an aggressive increase in annual production before required technology was demonstrated, design stability was achieved, and flight testing was complete.

"Unfortunately, the committee's and others' concerns regarding the program were well justified.

As the Government Accountability Office reports, because of delays in research and development and flight testing, the Department of Defense's projected requests for procurement of F-35 aircraft through 2017 have been reduced by approximately 75 percent compared to the original schedule when the program began in 2001.

"Compared to last year, the Department has removed procurement of 179 F-35 aircraft from its budget plan for fiscal years 2013 to 2017.

"Expectations for the F-35 program remain very high. There has been a significant commitment of this nation's resources to the F-35 program, with major financial commitments required in the future. Much of the promised capability of the F-35 has yet to be demonstrated and consequently the future performance of the F-35 acquisition program remains of major concern.

"Our witnesses have an extraordinary challenge and responsibility in the execution of the F-35 program and we appreciate their professional commitment to the task."

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