Senate panel recommends cutting LRSO funds despite USAF warning

By Sara Sirota / November 12, 2020 at 12:55 PM

Senate appropriators are recommending a $30 million cut to the Air Force's Long Range Standoff Weapon budget request in fiscal year 2021 even though the service has said it needs full funding to accelerate testing and make the program schedule more flexible.

The Air Force asked for $474 million to support Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s separate FY-21 technology-maturation and risk-reduction work for the new nuclear weapon replacing the Air-Launched Cruise Missile. With nearly two years left in the companies’ contracts, the Air Force announced in April it would proceed with Raytheon as the sole-source prime vendor and terminated its contract with Lockheed.

That decision prompted House appropriators to propose a $170 million cut to the LRSO budget request in their version of the FY-21 defense spending bill, which was released in July. A House Democratic aide said the Air Force didn’t give any indication that the program cannot stay on its current objective schedule despite losing the funds.

But Air Force spokeswoman Leah Bryant told Inside Defense in July the service did not recommend this reduction and stood by its $474 million proposal, stating the program’s effort to gain up to 12 months of schedule margin for its FY-30 initial operational capability date was predicated on re-purposing the $170 million that had been aligned with Lockheed.

While the Senate Appropriations Committee isn’t recommending such a significant cut, the panel’s FY-21 defense spending bill, which was released Nov. 10, does propose a smaller $434 million budget. A report accompanying the bill states the reduction is intended to restore “acquisition accountability.”

House and Senate lawmakers will likely debate LRSO’s funding level during upcoming conference negotiations over the final FY-21 defense spending bill.