WASHINGTON — Citing “disastrous” management of the F-35 development program and “obvious, catastrophic failings” in the aircraft itself, the Air Force and Marine Corps will jointly announce this afternoon the cancellation of the most expensive procurement project in history, sources have told Duffel Blog.
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps and nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will make the announcement together at the Pentagon at 5:30pm.
“We’ve already spent over $400 billion on the development of this aircraft,” said a senior Pentagon official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the program with the media. “Just to put that in perspective, when Reagan wanted a 600-ship navy, his most aggressive plan would have cost $119 billion over six years.”
“We’ve known for years it was a failure, but the argument was always ‘we’ve already sunk so much into it, just a few more dollars will make it work,’” he added.
White House sources have hinted that Dunford was nominated as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in large measure so that he could be the one to cancel the aircraft.
“It’s the Marines who have driven this program into the ground, with their vertical [takeoff and landing] requirements,” said a senior White House budget official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “Only Nixon could go to China, and only a Marine could kill the F-35, what with 43 states participating in its manufacture.”
Signs of the major changes in the program have been appearing in offices around the Pentagon for several days, with numerous reassignments and demotions in the civilian acquisitions staff. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan was rumored to be on his way out, with Dunford convening Article 32 hearings for several officers in senior management positions.
The Department of Justice is also reportedly preparing indictments against top officials at several defense contractors who were associated with the program’s disastrous cost overruns, mismanagement, and delays.
“This thing had a total lifetime cost estimate of $1.5 trillion. $1.5 trillion!” the senior Pentagon officials said. “With the savings we capture here, we are going to rebuild the fleet. We’re going to set some money aside for a couple hundred F-22s, which is over its over growing pains. We will save the A-10 and look at upgrading it. And we’re going to replace or refurbish all the worn out equipment from 14 years of war.”
International partners in the development process in Great Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands, each of whom committed more than $1 billion, will be offered F-16 E/F Block 60/61 aircraft, the most advanced F-16 variant, at a reduced cost, along with participation in the unmanned strike fighter that is expected to become the military’s primary new aircraft development project.
“We cannot afford this project any longer, nor have we really been able to for many years,” Dunford will say later this afternoon, according to prepared remarks obtained by Duffel Blog. “It is unfortunate that we have thrown so much bad money after good, but the time has come to cut our losses, and acknowledge that this is a bad aircraft — a bad system. The day of giant, do-everything projects is over.”
“Going forward,” Welsh is expected to say, “we are going to focus on smaller systems that do one or two things well, that can be developed affordably and quickly. We will also look on a case-by-case basis at adding capabilities to existing, proven systems.”
The senior White House official was more blunt: “This program nearly destroyed the Department of Defense, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the ability of the United States to be the number one military in the world,” he said. “It will take us years to recover fully, but we must and we will.”