“The importance of the F 35B short takeoff vertical landing variant to the Marine Corps and the Nation cannot be overstated.”- Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
Yesterday, the House voted to reject an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have effectively killed the Marine Corps. variant of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter. The amendment was added by House Democrats eager to cut into the defense budget as a means of deficit reduction, at the expense of the safety of U.S. Marines flying an aging fleet of fighter jets.
According to coverage in DefenseNews.com:
A handful of Democrats put forward amendments that would have canceled or cut funding to weapons so that more money would be available for deficit reduction during House debate of the 2013 defense authorization bill May 17. All of the amendments were voted down.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., offered an amendment to terminate the F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft program. The amendment would have directed the available funds to be used for deficit reduction and to procure additional F/A-18E/F aircraft.
...Speaking in opposition of the amendment, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., noted President Obama and Panetta support the F-35B program and funded it in the Pentagon’s 2013 budget.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also spoke out against the Conyers amendment.
He said the F-35B offers more capability than the F/A-18 and that cutting this variant would jeopardize the whole JSF program, for which there are several international partners.
Rep. Smith would go on to point out that cutting a single variant of the F-35 would put the entire program in jeopardy, risk agreements with foreign partners. “If we cut this variant, we will also jeopardize the entire program, not just this variant," he argued. "Our foreign partners are likely to withdraw. It will undermine our per-unit cost to the point where sustaining the program will be very difficult.”
Many House members spoke out against the amendment, with Rep. Gingrey (R-Georgia) stating, "The STOVL variant is desperately needed for the execution of short takeoffs and vertical landings in combat deployments aboard amphibious assault ships and in austere conditions ashore...It will provide the Marines with a much more capable tactical fighter force that meets the future threats facing our nation.”
To learn more about the F-35 Lightning II, visit F35.com.