“There’s a lot of uncertainty as to where we are,” Shaikh said, when asked about the status of the F-35s. “The decision has not been made and we haven’t announced our path forward. Our focus now is to make sure that we are drawing those lessons learned [on the purchase] so that moving forward, we don’t repeat these mistakes that we made here. There needs to be clarity.”
Shaikh said the Government Accountability Office confirmed the funding for the F-35s should be included in the upcoming 2019 federal spending bill. But lawmakers don’t appear to be on board with that plan and may seek to replace the money with another source to pay for the jets. Shaikh said the Joint Chiefs will reach out to congressional offices to continue to negotiate.
“We would love for our funding to be accounted for in these spending bills that are now being written,” Shaikh said. “We have pledged this to Congress and to the joint force members that we’re going to make them whole and to make sure that we get them all the F-35s and help ensure that we’re on the right path to ensure the sustainability of these airplanes well into the future.”
Shaikh said that the overall cost of getting to “final readiness” to field the F-35 would drop to $150 million per aircraft, down from the initial estimate of $165 million per unit.