Senate Panel Shifts Funds On Joint Strike Fighter

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Senate Panel Shifts Funds
On Joint Strike Fighter

05/09/00 09:43:16 PM U.S. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP)—Secretary of Defense William Cohen sought to head off a new congressional threat on Tuesday to the development of the Joint Strike Fighter, but a Senate panel decided to put restrictions on how quickly funds are spent on the $220-billion program.

Cohen and Gen. James Jones, the commandant of the Marine Corps, met behind closed doors with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in a plea to preserve funding. The committee voted to shift funds for the plane from the engineering and manufacturing phase, as the administration had wanted, into the less-advanced phase of “demonstration and validation.”

The fighter, one of the most expensive planes ever to be built, has come under criticism from congressional cost-cutters recently, a year after Congress came close to killing off the Air Force’s F-22 Stealth bomber. (Call me silly, but I thought it was a fighter! Well guess not)

While the House Armed Services Committee has backed the Pentagon’s $856 million request for the Joint Strike Fighter for next year, some members of the Senate panel have threatened to delay the program.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., called the Joint Strike Fighter “vital to America’s long-term national security interests.” Still, he said, after listening to Cohen and Jones, the panel “agreed not to include any legislative prohibition” against developing the fighter in the fiscal year 2001 defense budget it has been working on this week.

“The committee remains concerned about the pressure” on the Pentagon to move too quickly to production, Warner said. Warner said that, “as the program continues and new information is developed,” the Pentagon could have the funds reprogrammed. That leaves the defense secretary “the flexibility to move forward when the program is ready for the next phase,” he said.

The jet is expected to become the principal fighter jet of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The services plan to buy about 3,000 of them. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are competing for the contract to build the jet, some of which will be sold to Britain.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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