WASHINGTON – The Pentagon will cut 17 of the 343 F-35 fighters it planned to buy from Lockheed Martin Corp. in fiscal 2016 through 2019 unless Congress repeals automatic budget cuts, according to a new Defense Department report.
The move would save about $1.7 billion from $45.5 billion in planned spending for the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons program. The report spells out an array of cuts in other projected purchases, from air-to-air missiles made by Raytheon Co. to aerial refueling tankers from Boeing Co.
The report obtained by Bloomberg News, “Estimated Impacts of Sequestration-Level Funding,” provides the Pentagon’s most detailed breakdown yet on the impact of the cuts. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the military service chiefs have been pressing Congress to avert the process called sequestration, which is scheduled to take full effect again in fiscal 2016 after two years of temporary relief.
“Reviewing these cuts illustrates the additional war- fighting risk that the department will incur” if “automatic reductions persist,” according to the 37-page report.
Cuts in federal spending on defense and domestic programs were embedded in a 2011 agreement to lift the federal debt limit. The report says the Defense Department will have to absorb $115 billion in additional reductions through fiscal 2019 if sequestration stays in effect, including $35.3 billion in fiscal 2016.
The cuts in F-35 funding would pare 15 planes from the Air Force’s version and two from the Navy’s.
Still, the document shows that Pentagon officials are standing by pledges to do what they can to protect the $391.2 billion F-35 program from Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed, which involves eight other nations.
Marines’ F-35 spared
Planned funding of $11.1 billion for the fighter’s Marine Corps version - the B model designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings - would be preserved, with none of 69 aircraft cut, according to the Pentagon report. The U.K. and Italy are also purchasing the B model.
That’s good news for Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, based in London, which make the Marine version’s more complex propulsion system.
The Pentagon’s anticipated five-year, $550 billion budget for weapons purchases would be cut by $48.3 billion. Its $337 billion research plan would be reduced by $18 billion.
The $1 trillion operations and maintenance account, which funds military readiness, would decline by $40 billion.
The new document, which was initiated by the Pentagon and not requested by Congress, offers projections that contractors, local governments and unions can use as ammunition in pressing lawmakers for the repeal of sequestration. The report may be issued this week.