Proposed F-35 cuts could hit Marietta

WASHINGTON -- As Congress eyes Pentagon cuts to help bring down deficits, the multibillion dollar F…

Georgia (Sep 22, 2011) — WASHINGTON -- As Congress eyes Pentagon cuts to help bring down deficits, the multibillion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is in the crosshairs -- which could mean more belt-tightening at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta plant.


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Tom Reynolds Part of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is assembled in Marietta, but the program faces budget cuts from the Pentagon.

Republicans who represent the area, though zealous about budget cutting overall, are lobbying against a Senate plan to hold F-35 production at current levels rather than increase it by three planes next year. The proposal, which would cut $695 million from the Pentagon’s $9.7 billion program request, must be merged with a House-passed bill that granted the full amount.

“We’re going to fight very hard to hold the line on that,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta.

But the Senate proposal, which moved from committee with bipartisan support, is seen as a bellwether.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said as the proposals are merged he hopes for “a resolution on this or at least a firm game plan established on the F-35 among the appropriators. Whether we’ll see any of it restored or not I don’t know. Obviously I hope so.” 

 Chambliss and Gingrey both said they are confident Lockheed can limit job losses if the program is slowed, as it did by moving F-22 employees to other production lines, and they stressed military readiness concerns more than job losses. But F-35’s importance to Marietta is a big motivator.

“As the budget situation gets worse, it becomes a fine line to walk to say we’ve got to cut this spending, but not this spending over here,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University.

“[But] they think it’s part of a political necessity to try to protect these defense dollars and jobs.” 





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