Lawmakers want the Pentagon to procure 98 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in fiscal year 2021, 19 more than were included in the department’s budget request, according to a letter sent March 17 from 130 members of Congress to top House authorizers and appropriators.
The letter was led by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), co-chair of the Congressional Joint Strike Fighter Caucus. In a Wednesday statement, Larson said it is “imperative that we continue to support our nation’s only fifth-generation fighter.”
The Defense Department’s FY ’21 presidential budget request, released Feb. 10, included 79 F-35s – 48 Air Force F-35A variants, 10 Marine Corps F-35Bs and 21 Navy F-35Cs – and 19 fewer than Congress appropriated in Fiscal Year 2020. In the letter, the lawmakers make the case to add 12 F-35As, two F-35Bs and five F-35Cs to that request. “This increase in procurement will restore previously planned F-35 production rates negatively impacted by the sequestration era budget caps resulting from the Budget Control Act,” the letter said.
The lawmakers also call for additional funding to help accelerate compliance with the department-mandated 80 percent mission capable rate goal. They highlight a need for “spare parts and depot-level repair capability to meet the required availability rates and accelerate the stand-up of mandated, organic government repair capabilities.”
The 130 members advocate for a “long-term, outcome-based sustainment contract” that would “guarantee performance metrics at a fixed-price — a win-win for our men and women in uniform and the American taxpayers.”
The letter includes a call for the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to fully fund the Pentagon’s request for its Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) modernization effort, as well as funds as “available” to accelerate the integration of the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) onto the fighter aircraft. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the joint program as well as the JASSM program.
“The F-35 is of vital importance to the national security of the United States and our allies. The program is also an incredible success story of American ingenuity. In the First District alone, the F-35 program now supports more than 7,000 jobs and has a total economic impact of nearly $800,000,000,” Larson said in his statement.