No Extra Fighter Jets in Compromise Defense Bill

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft lands on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on Nov. 17, 2016, in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. military woulnd't get extra fighter jets in the compromise version of the 2017 defense authorization bill. (U.S. Navy photo/Joshua Samoluk)An F-35B Lightning II aircraft lands on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on Nov. 17, 2016, in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. military woulnd't get extra fighter jets in the compromise version of the 2017 defense authorization bill. (U.S. Navy photo/Joshua Samoluk)

The U.S. military doesn’t get extra fighter jets in the compromise version of the 2017 defense authorization bill.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives had supported funding for 11 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and a total of 14 F-18E/F Super Hornets made by Boeing Co. “to address a critical fighter shortage,” according to language approved earlier this year.

But their counterparts in the Senate didn’t sign off on the plan for extra fighter jets.

Thus, the compromise version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, would authorize funding in keeping with the Defense Department’s original budget request.

The Pentagon has asked for $10.5 billion for 63 of the F-35 fifth-generation fighters — including 43 A models for the Air Force and 16 B variants for the Marine Corps and four C models for the Navy — as well as $185 million for two of the Navy’s F/A-18E/F fourth-generation fighters.

The legislation also dropped a provision to shift management of the nearly $400 Joint Strike Fighter program — the Pentagon’s largest acquisition effort — to the Air Force and Navy. But lawmakers still want to study different ways to manage the program.

They opted against dissolving the F-35 Joint Program Office, headed by Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, as previously proposed by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The House recedes with an amendment that would remove the requirement to disestablish the JPO and require the Secretary of Defense, no later than March 31, 2017, to submit to the congressional defense committees a report on potential options for the future management of the Joint Strike Fighter program,” states a report accompanying the bill.

Interestingly, conferees also opposed treating the F-35 Follow-on Modernization program as a separate acquisition effort — but agreed it should have similar reporting requirements.

“The Senate bill contained a provision (sec. 1087) that would require the Department of Defense to treat the F-35 Follow-on Modernization program as a separate Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP),” the report states.

“The House recedes with an amendment that would remove the requirement to treat the Follow-on Modernization program as a separate MDAP and require the Secretary of Defense, not later than March 31, 2017, to submit to the congressional defense committees a report that contains the basic elements of an acquisition program baseline for Block 4 modernization,” it continues.

The bill is expected to go to the House for a vote as early as Friday and the Senate is expected to follow suit next week.

— Brendan McGarry contributed to this report.

About the Author

Oriana Pawlyk
Oriana Pawlyk is a reporter at Military.com. She can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.