Congress Likely to Follow as House Seeks More F-35s, F-15Xs (excerpt)
(Source: Bloomberg Government; posted May 14, 2019)
By Travis J. Tritten
The House floated a budget proposal Tuesday that funds more Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 joint strike fighters than the Pentagon requested and also backs its full request for new F-15X fighters, despite concerns over competition between the two aircraft.

The $690 billion draft appropriations bill calls for 90 F-35s and eight Boeing Co. F-15Xs. Analysts say Congress will likely follow suit and bankroll similar purchases in the final fiscal year 2020 defense budget.

The Pentagon’s budget request in March for 78 of the advanced Lockheed fighters stirred concerns among lawmakers who say the number needs to be higher. Complicating those talks is the Pentagon’s proposed purchase of the older, less-advanced Boeing jets, frustrating critics who worry it could take a bite out of an expected F-35 boost and say the U.S. should fully commit to the newer fighters.

Lockheed’s fifth-generation fighter jet, the most expensive weapons program in history, enjoys bipartisan backing in Congress, including the support of powerful lawmakers who will help decide how many fighters are funded in the fiscal 2020 defense budget.

“We need more F-35s. I’m on that side,” said Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is weighing a purchase authorization.

A Surprise Request

The White House in March requested 78 of the F-35, close to last year’s proposal, when the military requested 77. That number was also too low for lawmakers, who significantly raised funding to buy 93.

That increase was championed by Kay Granger (R-Texas), now the top Republican House appropriator, who has an F-35 assembly plant in her Fort Worth district. Lawmakers funded 90 F-35s the year before, an increase of 20 over the Pentagon’s request. (end of excerpt)

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