Cohen Defends 'THE Fighter Aircraft of the Future'
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2000 We usually think of "The Pentagon" as a pretty "tight-lipped" place. Today, the secretary threw the press a curve.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen did just that after a May 16 Pentagon press conference on DoD's child care program.
Reporters queried Cohen on a variety of subjects and both sides wrapped by thanking each other. Then, to everyone's surprise, Cohen asked the media, "No questions on the Joint Strike Fighter?"
"Do you want to say something?" a reporter dubiously asked.
"I do want to say something," Cohen boldly replied.
To everyone's surprise, the secretary then expressed his views on the importance of the Joint Strike Fighter, the military's next generation, multirole, strike aircraft designed to complement the Navy F/A-18 and the Air Force F-22 aircraft. The Senate Armed Services Committee had just voted to cut about 25 percent of DoD's fiscal 2001 budget request for the plane.
"There have been a number of reports that have surfaced in the last day or so about the, quote, 'lack of support' within the services for the Joint Strike Fighter," he said. "I would like to be very clear about this.
"This aircraft is important not only to the Marine Corps, it is also equally important to the Air Force, which will depend for a very large number of the Joint Strike Fighter to fill its inventory in future years. It is also equally important to the Navy.
Cohen said it's "simply wrong" to conclude there is no need to support the Joint Strike Fighter just because certain aircraft, such as the F/A-18E/F model, are now coming off the production line and because funding has been secured for the F-22. He expressed his confidence that the JSF is the fighter aircraft of the future.
"The Air Force fully understands this," he said. "The Navy fully understands that it's not going to be the F/A-18E/F model that will provide the kind of capability and security for our fighters of the future. It will be the Joint Strike Fighter."
Expressing his personal support for the aircraft, as well of that of the services, Cohen said, "We will see the Joint Strike Fighter come into the inventory.
"This is not something that was mandated by either me or the department or the Office of Secretary of Defense. This is a program that was designed by, and offered by the services because they understood that they needed to have an aircraft that would serve the needs of the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force. And that's precisely what the Joint Strike Fighter is going to do.
"And so it continues to enjoy my strong support, just as I have supported the F-22 and the limited number of F/A-18E/F models. That was always within the Quadrennial Defense Review's recommendations. It was supported by the Joint Chiefs then, it was supported by the service chiefs, and it will be supported in the future. Thank you."
As the secretary stepped away from the podium, one reporter, who had to get the last laugh, asked, "Anything else you'd like to get off your chest while you're here?"