Favored Fighter

By Jason Sherman / November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in a few days will recommend to the next president's Pentagon transition team increasing funding for the Joint Strike Fighter program in order to accelerate purchases of the stealthy single-engine jet slated to be used by the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported yesterday.

England, in Fort Worth this week for a speaking engagement, said he will strongly advise the next administration to continue and even increase funding for F-35 development and production.

"In my judgment, it will be the best-performing airplane out there," England said when asked about criticisms of the F-35 from inside and outside of government.

England confirmed reports that the 2010 defense budget the Pentagon will propose to the next president lays the groundwork for increased funding to speed up F-35 purchases and production as soon as 2011. It’s important, England said, to increase F-35 production as soon as possible to bring down the cost to the U.S. and foreign buyers.

"We need to get the level of procurement up to get the most value for the money spent," said England, who, under General Dynamics and, briefly, Lockheed, ran the Fort Worth plant where the F-35 will be built.

Will the proposed F-35 spending hike snuff out continued F-22 production? The dogfight between supporters of both programs in Congress and Inside the Pentagon will play out in the next few months.

More than three months ago we reported the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was slated to be a key beneficiary of the $57 billion boost England is preparing in the fiscal year 2010 budget proposal for the next administration.