JSF: Math Lessons

By Jason Sherman / April 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's public affairs shop attempted last week to steer Defense Department reporters away from the math laid out in DOD's own F-35 Selected Acquisition Report -- which definitively says the total cost for Joint Strike Fighter program will increase to as much as $388 billion this June. (See pages 36 and 37 of the report.)

However, at least one key lawmaker has questions about the numbers laid out in the document -- the sole basis for the math cited in our story (derided by a Pentagon spokesman as "fuzzy," though no one -- including DOD-- has yet to explain how that could be given that the numbers are in the SAR).

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee, this morning referred to the F-35 SAR at a hearing on tactical aircraft programs. He suggested that an upwardly revised JSF independent cost estimate will raise questions about the affordability of the Pentagon's plans to buy 2,443 of the fighters, just as we reported. Here's what he said:

The Defense Department is warning Congress that the overall cost for buying the JSF will increase yet again as a result of the independent cost estimate, when it comes out this summer. The magnitude of that revised cost estimate could raise basic questions about the department's plans for and the commitment of the program's international partners to the program as it is currently envisioned.

Thune asked the service representatives at the hearing how they were prepared to handle such increases. We'll have the answer for you later today.

But let's review that math: The SAR states that the $133.5 million program acquisition unit cost (PAUC) “will increase” by as much as 18.4 percent, which would raise the PAUC to $158.1 million.

From there, the arithmetic is simple: $158.1 million x 2,443 JSF aircraft = $388 billion. Nothing “fuzzy” about it. This is the way the Pentagon has calculated program costs for more than 40 years.