Lawmakers Reject Withholding F-35 Funds

F35 Sea Trials

A Republican-led defense panel in Congress handily rejected a proposal to withhold most funding for the F-35 fighter jet next year.

The House Armed Services Committee on June 5 voted 51-10 against the amendment sponsored by Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., while debating its version of the 2014 defense authorization bill. The legislation sets policy goals and spending targets for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

Calling it a “good-government issue,” Duckworth proposed freezing procurement funding for the Joint Strike Fighter program until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel certified that the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., fixed problems with the aircraft’s software and several pieces of hardware, including the helmet-mounted display, fuel dump system and arresting hook.

“I want contractors to be held accountable and I want to fix the technical problems before we give them another $6 billion of taxpayer money,” she said during the hearing. “There’s nothing wrong with flying before we buy. In fact, most of us test drive cars before we [buy].”

The Defense Department next year plans to spend $8.4 billion to buy 29 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, including 19 for the Air Force, six for the Marine Corps and four for the Navy. The funding includes $6.4 billion in procurement, $1.9 billion in research and development and $187 million in spare parts.

Duckworth said she has “serious concerns” that buying production models of the planes while they’re still being tested — a practice known in acquisition parlance as concurrency — has led to developmental problems and a 68-percent surge in the projected cost of the program.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, with an estimated cost of $391 billion to develop and build 2,457 aircraft.

Duckworth cited comments made last year by Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, in which he criticized his own department’s decision to begin production of the single-engine jet years before its first test flight as “acquisition malpractice.”

Many of the aircraft’s most vaunted technologies “remain untested and unready,” Duckworth said. Flight testing of the software package designed for initial aircraft operations, known as Block 2B, was only 5 percent complete as of last month, she said.

Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the panel’s Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said the amendment would effectively halt funding for the F-35 program, causing delays and additional cost increases.

“We believe that we address the issues with the F-35 in the mark,” he said.

Turner was referring to language his subcommittee drafted in the legislation that would order the Pentagon to establish an independent team of subject matter experts to review software development for the program and submit a report to lawmakers by March 3, 2014.

Turner also cited as evidence of progress in the program a March report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of congress, subtitled, “Outlook Is Improved, but Long-Term Affordability Is a Major Concern.”

The Pentagon last week announced that the Marine Corps will begin operational flights of the F-35 fighter jet in 2015, followed by the Air Force in 2016 and the Navy in 2019.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Kole

    Withhold funding? Nahh, how about withholding F-35 information from the Chinese…. LOL

    • Tim

      The Chinese have stolen nothing important from the program. Any top secret information will be held in areas with no internet access. If they really don’t want you to know, they wouldn’t make it available for hacking. And besides, the Chinese have attempted hacking the software codes, but have failed.

      • Restore Palestine

        There is no important information in the F-35 program as far as the Chinese (and the Russians) except that the F-35 is an expensive piece of joke. The Russians know it; the Chinese know it; the Europeans know it (even a Dutch media corp had done a documentary about the useless F-35s a couple of years ago, and is probably still available on Youtube).

    • Restore Palestine

      The Chinese paid for the F-35 R&D. Why should they not be allowed access to information about the near worthless fighter?

  • Professor Ski!!!

    Better idea lets freak the chicoms out by saying it carriers really effective lasers that “work” a computer generated movie can handle that, when in reality we cancel, buy more advanced F-15,16,18E/F, and 22, and include a super harrier for the marines fool proof

  • SMSgt Mac

    Yawn. It was politically motivated and oddly-timed. Shot down based on the sheer stupidity of it likely adding more costs and delays in the end. If I was big on conspiracy theories, I’d suspect it was timed to be in concert with POGO’s latest F-35 cost b***s*** campaign.

  • Dfens

    Yeah, cancel F-35, because clearly the next program will be better…

  • BlackOwl18E

    That’s it. I’ve had it. I’ve given up on the F-35 issue. This measure made sense in every possible way, but it was killed because the F-35 is an unstoppable force due to the international nature of the program and the jobs that it creates. It doesn’t make sense during a time of sequestration and it doesn’t provide anywhere near the capability it costs. The jet itself is a total failure in terms of design and it will continue to move forward because it puts jobs in the right districts and money in the right hands. No country is willing to hurt their ego by backing out of the program and this program reeks of corruption by any standard. Lockheed Martin truly has pulled off the greatest scam on the US taxpayer and allies. They have managed to deliver nothing that they promised and take everything.

    The only way I see the F-35 dying now is if all of our allies pulled out of it together or a divine act of God himself. I’m sure no longer looking inside the US for something to kill this political beast.

    On a side note I am very glad that the Super Hornet is still going. There is a brilliant article in this month’s issue of the Proceedings called “Averting the Navy’s Tactical Aircraft Crisis” that I highly recommend everyone read. It openly explains that the Navy is stuck in the F-35 program and suggests that the Navy would save money by replacing all its C-model orders with A-models, which would allow the Navy to save money because a C-model is more expensive than the combined price of an A-model and a Super Hornet. The Super Hornets would be used for the Navy’s mission, while the A-model would merely be bought so the orders don’t go down.

    • guest

      Well, I know one of the things I’ll be praying for on Sundays



  • guest

    WW III is only a few heartbeats away … and technology will determine its outcome … as it did it WW II.

  • Sanem

    the germans had superior technology
    the US had nukes
    the Russians had numbers
    both had superior industry

  • seawitch

    NICE u go MS, Duckworth, someone who really knows a thing or 2 about flying big rigs, too bad we doint have more of people like you in congress.

  • hibeam

    Maybe when the Chinese get one of theirs working we can buy one?

  • Hefe

    The pentagon released a report about the f-35’s air to air capability. The report stated that the f-35’s turning and acceleration has been downgraded. Instead of 9g turns it can do 5g turns max. In other words the jetfighters we had in the 1960’s could manuver better than the f-35. I think we need to cancel it.