JSF: Striking Back

By Dan Dupont / April 9, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense consultant and Lexington Institute COO Loren Thompson has attacked a story we wrote this week on the Joint Strike Fighter, alleging ethical lapses and claiming that that the story is "wrong,” among other wild accusations.

Thompson's assertions are flat wrong. In an update to the story published last night, we included a response from the Pentagon's spokesman, Col. David Lapan, backing up the numbers used in the story. You can read that full story here:

Exclusive: DOD Warns Congress JSF Costs Could Skyrocket To $388 Billion By Summer

The Defense Department has told Congress the price tag for the Joint Strike Fighter program could rise as high as $388 billion by this summer, a recalibration that could raise fundamental questions about the affordability of the Pentagon's plans to buy 2,443 of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft.

In a report disclosed this week by InsideDefense.com, the Pentagon advised lawmakers that a new, statutorily mandated independent cost estimate of the F-35 program, which formally began last week, could propel F-35 costs from $133.5 million per plane -- a new high -- to as much as $158.1 million, according to DOD sources and figures provided in the 53-page report on JSF sent to Congress April 1.

“The department expects this analysis will result in increases” of as much as 18.4 percent -- or $60.4 billion -- to the current $328.2 billion JSF program cost estimate, according to figures in the report. Such a change would mark $90 billion in cost growth since 2008. InsideDefense.com obtained a copy of the report and extrapolated the cost increases with assistance from government officials.

Col. David Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman, said Pentagon cost estimators have calculated a slightly lower number than the $388 billion figure, “but it is not a large . . . difference.” The figure first reported by InsideDefense.com on April 6 is in the “ballpark,” Lapan said in an interview on April 8.

The story -- and its math -- have been backed by numerous officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere in the defense community, and are, as noted by Col. Lapan, not disputed by the Pentagon itself.

The numbers used in the story are based entirely on the numbers submitted by the Pentagon to Congress, which you can read here.

InsideDefense.com stands behind the story as published (and as updated to reflect Pentagon comments, which were sought for the original story but not submitted to us until after it was printed).

We soundly reject Mr. Thompson's unfounded accusations.