Air Force official concerned about weapon systems costs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper on Thursday voiced concern about the growing cost of weapons systems, calling for a more "effects-based" programming system that would foster industry competition and encourage the development of multi-use equipment capable of tackling several missions at once.

During remarks at the Heritage Foundation, Jumper also proposed creating joint offices to manage large programs as a way to avoid redundant development efforts across the department. Such an office would keep the military from "making and inventing the same thing twice," he said after the speech.

Jumper's remarks come as the Pentagon puts several Air Force programs on the chopping block as part of a proposal to slice more than $30 billion from the services' and defense agencies' budgets through fiscal 2011. The fate of several of the Air Force's core efforts, such as the C-130J intra-theater cargo plane and the F/A-22 Raptor, hang in the balance. The cuts to these and other systems will be central to the budget debate as the House and Senate Armed Services committees gear up for markups scheduled for mid-May.

Targeted for cancellation in the fiscal 2006 budget, the C-130J in particular is getting attention on Capitol Hill as the delegation from Georgia moves to protect the Lockheed Martin plane, manufactured in Marietta. House and Senate authorizers are awaiting word from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about whether the department will continue with its plans to terminate the program, a move the Air Force's top brass have said could cost more than $500 million.

Meanwhile, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is prepared to hold up the nomination of Kenneth Krieg, the administration's pick to head the Pentagon acquisition shop, until the department makes up its mind on the platform. In a statement, Chambliss said he is "disappointed" Congress has not yet been notified about the administration's decision on the C-130J.

If Pentagon officials opt to continue the plane, it must submit a budget amendment to lawmakers reflecting their change in plans. A Senate aide with knowledge of the program said authorizers could save it in the fiscal 2006 budget, then rely on the Defense Department to "fix it" in the fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2008 budget.

In its fiscal 2006 request, the Pentagon accelerates acquisition of eight KC-130Js for the Marine Corps, then requests no funding for that program in 2007 and beyond. There currently is more than enough in the KC-130J budget line to pay for nine of the planes for the Air Force and four for the Marines, the Senate aide said.

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