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Cornyn Warns Carter, Soon to Face Nomination Hearings, On F-35

Posted by Colin Clark on

Washington: Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, where the F-35 is assembled, wrote presumptive Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter today, expressing “disappointment” with Carter’s “apparent lack of commitment to the success” of the largest “defense acquisition program in our nation’s history.”

Cornyn is clearly part of a greatly stepped up lobbying effort by Lockheed Martin to save the F-35 from major cuts as the Pentagon budget comes under rising pressure as the administration’s strategic review progresses. Although the letter might seem a veiled threat, a source familiar with Lockheed’s efforts said Cornyn was not likely to try and put a hold on Carter’s nomination.

But Cornyn, using pretty strong language for a senatorial letter, cites what he says is “DoD’s failure to sufficiently defend and advocate” for the F-35 program. He tells Carter directly that he wants to strongly, “encourage you to step up your defense of this key program.” If they were in a room alone you imagine the senator would be telling Carter to get off his butt and fight for the F-35 — or else.

The senator, one of the Senate’s tougher conservatives, asks for Carter’s written answers to four questions.

  • Why is it “imperative” that the U.S. field all three versions of the airplane.
  • Can Carter “assure” him that the Pentagon will not again take money from the F-35 and buy F/A-18 Super Hornets.
  • Will the administration use the F-35 as a “bill payer for other programs.”
  • Finally, Cornyn asks if Carter will commit to “a more proactive dialog with the international partners” in the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Cornyn closes the letter with an almost curt thank you, “for your prompt reply to this request.” It will be interesting to see how the administration handles this epistle.

I hear that similar letters are in the offing from other lawmakers.

What do you think?