U.S. weapons maker pushes back at Pentagon

U.S. weapons maker pushes back at Pentagon

U.S. weapons maker pushes back at Pentagon

F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft CF-1 and CF-2 (R) on a formation test flight on April 18. The F-35s are a drain on the pentagon’s financial resources. AFP photo

Lockheed Martin Corp, the biggest U.S. weapons maker, on May 31 pushed back against the Pentagon’s demands for ever more cost data, saying the requests were adding to the very overhead the government wants to see lowered.

Lockheed Chief Executive Bob Stevens said his company was working hard to drive down overhead, but the government’s “should cost” initiative meant the company needed more people to generate thousands of pages of additional paperwork.

“The more the government asks us to do, the more pressure that puts on having the overheads,” Stevens told an investor conference hosted by Sanford C. Bernstein.

“What won’t work in my mind is an ever increasing set of demands by the government for more and more and more information and responsiveness, and an increasing expectation that the facilities that are available to meet those increasing demands ought to be reduced and reduced and reduced,”
Stevens’ unusually blunt remarks came as negotiations between Lockheed and the Pentagon for a fifth batch of 32 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters dragged on for more than five months.

Lockheed is developing and building the next-generation F-35 fighter for the United States and eight development partners - Britain, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands - plus two other countries, Israel and Japan.

The Pentagon projects it will spend $396 billion to develop and buy 2,443 of the new radar-evading, supersonic warplanes, with projected operating and maintenance costs likely to drive the program’s total lifetime cost to $1.51 trillion.