How many times can the QDR be déjà vu without realizing the implications of modernization programs that are broken? The following articles below demonstrate the subtle duplicity of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex (MICC):

  1. “Lockheed official says F-35 price tag will hold steady”

  2. “Lockheed wins 6.5 billion JSF contract change”

Predication: the QDR will miss the importance of the issues highlighted in the articles—the JSF is now too expensive for TACAIR—it is no longer the low-cost fighter it was planned to be! The USN wants the JSF to be its first stealthy fighter aircraft to compete with the USAF—but it will not be able to afford it. The USAF needs cheap fighter-bombers to replace the aging F-16s and A-10s—the JSF will not meet that objective. The USMC needs an aircraft to replace its AV-8Bs so they can continue to operate off of amphibious assault ships. The USMC cannot afford the JSF either, especially if you factor in their Osprey bill.

Do NOT count on the QDR to see the critical implications of JSF cost growth. As briefing charts go up the chain, the bad news will be masked and sublimated. The DoD bureaucracy is masterful at systematically squelching bad news and dissenting arguments. Sure there will be talk of reducing requirements and total buys, killing a variant or maybe two, but this will do little to stop the runaway freight train that will take the USN/USAF/USMC into a TACAIR  modernization “death spiral.” Ironically, the only thing that killing a JSF variant and reducing JSF purchases will pay for is cost growth and slippage of the JSF Program. It will not be the bill payer the DoD thought it could be in the QDR. The subtle message in the articles above is that total cost for the JSF program will/may stay the same—so victory? No, you see there is a “shell game” going on here—the cost will stay within a cap (~$265B), but the total numbers (purchases) will decline dramatically. That of course means that unit fly-away costs will go up dramatically and the program will slip. But do NOT worry, this aircraft has not only been “front loaded” with R & D approaching F/A-22 costs; it has been “politically engineered” into numerous congressional districts throughout the US and many of our major allies (See "Defense Power Games," by Franklin C. Spinney).

For years clarion voices have been predicting the TACAIR house of cards, few can argue with the latest facts—only the most diehard skeptics close their eyes now (See “Defense Time Bomb” (70KB PDF) & “The JSF: One More Card In The House” (9KB PDF) by Franklin C. Spinney). For months there have been numerous articles regarding the potential reductions of TACAIR. Lately, there are rumors of even more cost growth for the JSF, but Lockheed is denying any cost increases. How is this possible? This can only happen at the Versailles of the Potomac, where you can create your own reality. Look for cost growth, delay and then performance slippage of the JSF in the months to come, but it will most likely be after critical QDR decisions have already been made.

— Braveheart

[DNI Editor's note:  "Braveheart" is a defense analyst with long experience working TACAIR issues.]