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Loren Thompson - who has starred in this column before, here and here - is once again demonstrating his loyalty to the Joint Strike Fighter program, along with a certain lack of logical cohesiveness and specificity in his approach. I referred earlier this week to Inside Defense's scoop of the detailed Selected Acquisition Report covering the JSF - pointing out the most important revelation in the piece, which was that most of the "revised" JSF cost projections issued in March were only partly new: the Pentagon leadership has accepted new numbers for research and development and low-rate production but is still studying costs in full-rate production and believes they could be much higher. But then Thompson unloaded on the story this morning, describing it as based on "shaky math" and going on to blast reporter Jason Sherman's ethics, via an unnamed competitor, as "dishonest reporting" and describing the story as "beginning to raise questions about journalistic ethics".The good Doctor then pre-empts a shower of bricks on his own ethical glass house by acknowledging that he takes money from Lockheed (which I don't believe that he has admitted in his own writings before) and complaining that people think this makes him biased. (I am personally shocked that anyone would think that.)Inside Defense was not going to take this lying down, pointing out that Thompson's initial tirade hadn't been very specific about anything that was factually wrong with their story. Thompson was upset about the headline "$388 billion" number for the overall program cost: but in fact it's simple math. If the average procurement cost is at the high end of what DoD is projecting, that's what the total bill for R&D and 2443 jets will be. Undeterred, Thompson swung back on Friday afternoon - in a post that shifted the attack from the reporting to the validity of the numbers in the SAR, and asserting that "all he (Sherman) is reporting is a shift in the assumptions used to make cost estimates." (That is technically true inasmuch as the Pentagon's senior leadership is no longer assuming that the JSF team's estimates are accurate.)Thompson concludes: "The bottom line on the F-35 program is that the cost of producing each plane in today's dollars will be around $60 million". That number is barely half the low-end figure given to Congress last month. At a certain point, you do have to wonder why Lockheed Martin is paying someone to ridicule the customer's cost-estimating skills.
ar99, jsf, loren thompson
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