By Roxana Tiron - 05/01/10 06:35 PM EDT
The Pentagon is asking the defense committees for an almost five-month extension of the deadline to notify Congress of a new multiyear contract with Boeing Co. for the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.
The Pentagon’s deadline to inform lawmakers whether it would agree to sign a third multiyear contract with Boeing was May 1. Now Pentagon officials are seeking an extension to Sept. 30. This is the second time Pentagon leaders are asking for more time to make a decision.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who represents the St.
Louis district where Boeing builds the Super Hornets,
on Saturday expressed disappointment and urged Defense Secretary Robert Gates
to make a speedy decision.
“Senior leadership in the DoD is once again dragging their feet on a solution that is good for taxpayers and good for the Navy. Delaying a multiyear procurement of F/A-18’s for the second time concerns me greatly,” Akin said in a statement. “The Navy and Boeing have had plenty of time to negotiate -- it is time for the Secretary of Defense to make this deal happen.”
Akin was instrumental in granting the Navy the authority to
enter a multiyear contract for the jets as part of the 2010 defense
authorization act. Akin has stressed in recent weeks that a multiyear contract
could save about $500 million.
Boeing and its congressional supporters have been pressing
for a long-term contract for several years. The idea is to save money on the
planes by offering the contractor the predictability of production and
deliveries over four to five years. Boeing made an offer for a multiyear
contract to build 124 F/A-18 series aircraft, which include the Super Hornet
fighter jets and their electronic attack versions, the Growlers.
Congressional supporters also aim to stave off a shortfall of fighter jets on the decks of the Navy’s carriers. The shortfall, expected to peak in 2016-2017, has been a matter of debate between Congress and the Pentagon for several years.
That debate is fresh on lawmakers’ minds. Pentagon leaders
recently restructured the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program that would build
next-generation fighters for the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Lawmakers
fear this could lead to delays in the delivery of the F-35 to the Navy and
The F-35 is supposed to replace the older versions of the F-18. Super Hornets, the newest version of the F-18, are supposed to share carrier deck space with the F-35 until 2030.
Gates and other Pentagon officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, are standing strongly by the F-35 as the next-generation fighter aircraft.