Pentagon Spokesman's Regular Briefing



1:45 P.M. EST


Q: Ken, I've got an airplane question involving the F-22 Fighter.
There's a new cost estimate saying it could cost $9.1 billion over the
congressional cap that was set three years ago - by Dan Coats,
ironically. The Pentagon on January 3rd --

MR. BACON: Whoa, wait. Let's be clear. Dan Coats set the cost limit;
he didn't come up with the new cost estimate. Isn't that correct?

Q: I - correct.

MR. BACON: Wouldn't he - he's a senator. Senator Coats played a role
in setting the cost cap.

Q: Very good.

MR. BACON: Right.

Q: January 3rd the Pentagon is supposed to review whether to start
this thing into low-rate production.

Here's my question: Given the cost estimate, how concerned is the
Pentagon that this program really has not gotten - has - (inaudible)
-- costs over the years and that you're giving the next
administration, frankly, a tar baby of a problem?

MR. BACON: Well, first of all, the F-22, of course, is being built to
replace the F-15, which will be - is now about 25 years old, I think.
And the F-15 has performed admirably and continues to perform
admirably, but it's a fighter that really represents 1960s/1970s
technology, whereas the F-22 was supposed to represent 21st century
technology. And its primary difference between - the primary
difference between the F-22 and the F-15 is that the F-22 will be
stealthy and therefore uses a whole new technology that wasn't even
available when the F-15 was built.

There are debates over what the program will cost. There have been
debates for some time. As you correctly point out, their cost analysis
improvement group has floated this figure that it could cost $9
billion more. The Air Force disagrees with that. So one of the things
that the Defense Acquisition Board will have to sort out is which
figure is correct, and has? the program reached a level of maturity
and certainty that makes it possible to begin the low-rate initial
production. That's the issue they're faced - that they'll be facing
in January. They're clearly not prepared to answer that question now,
because they haven't gone through the analysis and the review that
they will on January 3rd.

Q: It's fair to say at this point that Secretary Cohen cannot certify
to Congress that the airplane program is going to meet the
congressional caps.

MR. BACON: He has to wait for this review to take place. And as you
pointed out in your story today, one of the issues is whether to - is
whether to change the production schedule in a way that will channel
some money into a cost-lowering program, a productivity- enhancement
program. If certain changes can be made now to make the production
line more efficient, particularly over time, then it may pay to do
that in the hopes of buying future cost reductions with investments

Q: Is that date firm that you mentioned, January 3rd?

MR. BACON: It was initially supposed to be this week, and it was
delayed. I think it's pretty firm right now, but dates can always
change. But, I mean, January 20th is - the date of the inauguration
can't change. That's enshrined in the Constitution, or in law,
certainly. But I think this date is pretty firm right now.

Q: Why can't the production decision be pushed to the next
administration and let them review the program? Why does the Pentagon
have to sign the - possibly sign the dotted line on it? Why can't you
just leave it for --

MR. BACON: Well, first of all, our entire government is based on
continuity. And if you delayed every decision for a new administration
to take office, nothing would get done for the last year of any
administration; in fact, maybe the last two years, since campaigns now
go on for at least two years. So I just think that part of being in
government is making decisions. And we have an obligation to the Air
Force, to future military readiness, to make sure that programs move
forward in a timely way.

If the new administration wants to review this program, either
individually or as part of a broader study of tactical aviation costs
and tactical aviation capability, they have the right to do that. In
fact, they'll have the vehicle for doing it because one of the first
things a new administration will deal with is the Quadrennial Defense
Review. But I think one of the responsibilities that any
administration faces is to make sure that programs move forward
smoothly, and that involves making decisions when they should be made
and when we have the best available information.