December 06, 2012
Credit: Credit: DoD
Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan jolted many when after just five weeks on the $396 billion F-35 fighter jet program, he said ties between Lockheed Martin Corp and the U.S. government were the “worst” he had ever seen.
Three months later, Bogdan’s trademark straight talk and insistence on accountability seem to be paying off.
After a year of often tense negotiations, the Pentagon last week reached a deal with Lockheed to buy 32 more F-35 fighters. The jets already produced just exceeded 5,000 flight hours and the Air Force is poised to approve the start of full training efforts at a Florida air base.
The agreement is worth $3.8 billion to Lockheed, but it also marks what many experts see as a new era for the F-35, the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program, which is finally delivering results after three major restructurings in recent years.
Pentagon officials strongly back the restructured program, but its massive size means it will remain a possible target amid mounting U.S. budget pressures.
Maintaining funding for the program may be the biggest challenge for Bogdan, a former B-2 bomber test pilot and long-time acquisition expert who moves up from being the deputy director of the F-35 program to the top job on Thursday.
He received his third star last Friday, the same day the Pentagon announced its deal with Lockheed. Bogdan will succeed Navy Vice Admiral David Venlet, who is retiring.
While his blunt talk may have shocked some, it may have been just what the government and Lockheed needed to kick-start the stalled negotiations about a fifth batch of fighters, said a former senior military official.
“It got the senior leadership involved and that was just what was needed,” said the official. “At some point, only the adults can make the decisions.”