Pentagon launches review of costs of F-35, largely built in Texas

By Abby Livingston

WASHINGTON - Newly-installed Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered on Thursday a review of costs associated the F-35 fighter plane, a key economic driver in Texas.

In a memorandum to a subordinate, Mattis wrote that the F-35 "warrants a detailed assessment to reduce associated costs," according to a memo obtained by Defense One News. He further ordered a review to compare the F-35 to another aircraft, the Boeing-manufactured Super Hornet.

The F-35 is vital to the economy of Fort Worth, where a massive Lockheed Martin plant assembles the plane. But it has also long been an incredibly controversial military projects.

Budget hawks in recent years have painted the plane as an example of government and defense contracting excess, deriding it a boondoggle with cost and schedule overruns.

But F-35 advocates fiercely defend the plane, calling it a modern marvel of military technology. They argue the F-35 is essential to maintaining American air superiority over Russia and China, and that current military planes are aging and a danger to personnel.

And comparisons to Boeing's Super Hornet make the F-35 backers bristle.

The directive comes after weeks of drama over the plane emerging from then-President-elect Donald Trump's Twitter account. Since December, he's met with the leaders of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Mattis praised the plane during his Senate confirmation hearing, but the memorandum is in line with several of Trump's pronouncements of reining in costs.

The F-35 has enormous political support from Texas. U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, is the committee chairman charged with Congressional oversight of the Pentagon. U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican who represents the Lockheed plant, is the chairwoman of the House subcommittee that oversees Defense spending.

Mattis praised the plane during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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