Citing the threat of cuts by the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin Corp. officials are pressing retired Navy admirals and Air Force generals to sign letters of support asking lawmakers to add more F-35 jets to the Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal.
“Right now, DOD is slowing F-35 production at the very time it should be accelerating the program,” Allen Myers, Lockheed’s vice president for Navy and Coast Guard programs, wrote in an April 22, 2019, email to a group of retired admirals.
While it’s a common tactic in Washington for advocates of a particular issue, especially in the national security world, to release letters of support signed by retired generals or admirals, it’s less common to see the behind-the-scenes solicitations for that support. Using a nickname from his days as a naval aviator, Myers, himself a retired admiral, signed the message with “Fight to Fly, Mad Al.”
“Congress is fully supportive of the program and poised to push up procurement,” Myers added. “Please help me show them they are doing the right thing for our Nation.”
The call for help comes after President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget requested 78 of the next-generation stealth fighters, six less than originally planned. Myers said it’s a mistake to pull back on the Pentagon’s largest weapons program.
“Costs are dramatically dropping with procurement costs falling BELOW $80 million for the F-35A and flying hour costs nearly on par with 4th generation aircraft and a pathway to even lower costs,” he wrote. “Despite the bright state of the program,” the Pentagon is limiting Navy Department purchases to “30 F-35Bs/F-35Cs a year, and USAF to 48 F-35As a year,” wrote Myers, citing different versions of the jet built for U.S. and allied forces.
Left unsaid were ongoing delivery delays, reliability woes, increased support cost estimates and spare parts shortages that have beset the warplane. (end of excerpt)
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