Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense are following the lead of their House counterparts when it comes to shoveling money into the insatiable maw of the F-35 program. The F-35 is supposed to be highly maneuverable, but Lockheed Martin seems best at maneuvering the Congress into spending more money on this program.
The Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget requested 79 aircraft across the three military services that fly tactical jets: 21 for the Navy, 10 for the Marine Corps and a whopping 48 for the Air Force. This, with advanced procurement, meant at least $9.8 billion was requested for the F-35 program. You can check out our handy chart from when the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget was released.
The House Appropriations Committee, in its version of the Pentagon’s FY21 spending bill, jacked that request into the stratosphere by adding over a billion dollars to give the Air Force an additional 12 aircraft – for a total of 60 in FY21.
Now the Senate Appropriators evidently want to prove that they are the best friends of Lockheed Martin, by seeing that House bet and raising them again. The Senate committee’s draft bill, just released, also adds 12 aircraft for the Air Force. But, like a late-night purveyor of steak knives, there’s MORE! The Senate would also add five F-35s for the Navy, for an additional $525 million.
Under the normal rules of passing legislation, and we will hasten to point out nothing about this year is normal, the additional 12 aircraft for the Air Force is technically “non-conferenceable.” The increase is in both the House and Senate bills and should be in the final bill produced by any conference committee. The five additional aircraft for the Navy, however, is in just one bill. This leaves the fate of that increase up in the air (ahem!)
But there’s little actual suspense here. Unfortunately, all of these additional aircraft – which will cost an additional $1.5 billion – will probably be in the final appropriations bill for the Pentagon.
And for those keeping score, that means at least $11.3 billion could be dedicated in FY21 to a single aircraft program.
That’s a lot of steak knives.