This week, Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote to a constituent, expressing concern with the cost of the military's newest fighter jet: the F-35.
The program is projected to cost $400 billion -- double the 2001 projection. It has also run into several production and technical delays since Congress first ordered the plane in the mid-90's.
In the letter, Leahy wrote: "The F-35 program has been poorly managed and is a textbook example of how not to buy military equipment." He said he would like to halt the program, but doesn't believe the bulk of Congress would agree, and therefore still supports stationing a fleet of the super-planes in Vermont.
"I'm confident that the contractor will get there and that we'll get an F-35 that is capable and meets the defense needs of our nation," said Vermont's new Adjutant General, Steven Cray. Cray said he believes the planes will touchdown at Burlington International by 2020. And he said he's glad to hear the Senator still backs the plane. "They're very expensive, very complicated systems," he said.
Stephen Pomeroy is a former Naval Aviator and is Associate Director of the School of Business and Management at Norwich University.
He said almost every military plane commissioned by the Defense Department since 1970 has come in significantly over budget. "We build airplanes in the Department of Defense the way Stutz built motor cars -- they're not in business any longer," he said.
Pomeroy said cost overruns are largely due to custom specifications and inherent hurdles in creating novel technology. The F-35 is designed to replace more than five planes across multiple military branches -- and near the end of their service lives. "If the United States is going to build a manned fighter aircraft, this is probably the best choice they have for now," he said. "If you think the world is going to be at peace perpetually, then we probably don't need it."
Politically, de-commissioning the plane would be nearly impossible. Production is spread over 45 states and is projected to employ more than 250,000 people.
Local opponents of the plane have said the jets could create an unhealthy environment for those who live near the airport, because the F-35 is louder than the current crop of F-16s.
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