PENTAGON: This may be one of those stories that turns on phrasing, but the Pentagon’s new spokesman, Peter Cook, said during yesterday’s briefing — his first — that the military is not reviewing how many F-35s it plans to buy.
“Obviously, the budget situation here in Washington will have a big impact on that, but there is nothing at this point to indicate any formal review of this number,” Cook said. “But there will be the standard budget review of all programs going forward to FY 17.”
He claimed the Pentagon is still committed to buying all 2,443 F-35s. That stands in stark contrast to the story we broke about the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee this in responses to the committee’s written questions:
“Given the evolving defense strategy and the latest Defense Planning Guidance, we are presently taking the newest strategic foundation and analyzing whether 2,443 aircraft is the correct number. Until the analysis is complete, we need to pursue the current scheduled quantity buy to preclude creating an overall near-term tactical fighter shortfall.”
That “strategic foundation” Dunford mentioned may well be the threat analysis that drives the Program Objective Memorandum, aka the Defense Planning Guidance, DoD’s primary budget document for the next five years. A source close to the F-35 program we spoke with before Dunford’s hearing said there was no reason to expect a change in the overall fleet purchase, even with a full budget review
That would seem to square with a comment Cook added: “Every program is going to be under review, F-35 or otherwise, but I wouldn’t suggest to you there has been any change in the outlook for the F-35.” Cook also referred reporters to Dunford to get his take on the issue. Given that he isn’t chairman yet, it isn’t likely he’ll say anything to contradict the official spokesman until he at least gets sworn in.