The U.S. Air Force is vowing to protect the costly F-35 fighter program, in spite of major budget pressures placed upon the Pentagon (“US Air Force vows to spare F-35 from budget cuts,” Agence France Presse, 19 September 2011).
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the Air Force Association that loss of the program would hurt the Air Force’s ability to operate in the future. “We will apply best military judgement to oppose reductions that would cause irreparable harm,” he stated.
Donley argued that the aging USAF fleet of fighter jets is too old to put off acquisition of next-generation fighters any further, claiming that “there is no alternative to the F-35 program. It must succeed.” In order to save the program, he said, the Air Force would have to streamline and terminate lower priority programs, as well as “accept greater risks in some areas.”
The U.S. Congress is currently trying to find agreement on over $1 trillion in government spending cuts, with a deadline approaching in under two months. That effort could lead to additional reductions in military spending.
But for now, at least, there is little appetite for deeper cuts in the Pentagon budget. Indeed, one of the members of the Congressional “super committee” on debt reduction, Republican Senator John Kyl, has threatened to quit the committee if further cuts in military spending are attempted beyond the $350 billion over 10 years already approved by Congress.