Procurement: June 10, 2000

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THE BATTLE FOR THE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER: Now that it has been decided that the winner of the Joint Strike Fighter design contest will get the entire contract, the battle is raging over how to divide up the work. The Pentagon wants to impose a work sharing plan on the winner, forcing that company to hire its competitors for some of the work so the country will maintain an industrial base. The contractors want to be in charge of dividing up the work. There is another problem with the Joint Strike Fighter: with defense budgets scheduled to grow by only 1.5% in real terms for the next five years, the Navy and Air Force cannot afford the number of JSFs they are scheduled to buy. Even worse, neither service seems to care much about the aircraft. The Air Force wants its F-22 Raptor, and the Navy wants its F-18E Super Hornet, and neither is willing to give up a single one of those planes to free up money for the JSF. Defense Secretary Cohen has demanded that the services support the JSF or he will start cutting the Raptor and Super Hornet programs to fully fund JSF. (Part of the problem is that the JSF is universally seen as "the aircraft of the Democratic Party and the Clinton Administration" while Raptor and Super Hornet are considered "Republican" airplanes.) Problems with getting the JSF's technology to work have inspired Congress to mandate a six-month slowdown in the program. The Air Force is quietly happy over this plan, since it lowers financial pressure slightly and opens the door for what the Air Force wants, a bomber version of the F-22 that could attack enemy air defenses and airfields, replacing the F-117 and the F-15E.--Stephen V Cole

 


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