Should Cost Vs. Will Cost

By Zachary M. Peterson / May 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter told luncheon attendees today at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space conference that the Defense Department should focus on what the Joint Strike Fighter "should" cost not what the jet "will" cost.

Carter did not expand much on the comment; however, he did say that the key to the troubled program's success is affordability. The acquisition czar added that the department must get the JSF program back on track and is "determined to do so" after the Joint Estimating Team (JET) found last fall that the cost of the Pentagon's largest current procurement effort had grew considerably from the original estimates.

When asked by a lieutenant commander in the audience how fellow acquisition professionals could avoid the mistakes that plague JSF in the future, Carter said people working within program offices should focus on the "content, not the process." He argued in many cases program personnel are "so choked with process" that they are satisfied if they start out with a "lion and end up with a mouse." Further, Carter said programs must be able to allow issues to surface "in an honest way," so they can be solved before more serious problems arise.

Carter declined to take any questions from reporters.