Lawmakers have rejected the Pentagon’s request to shift as much as $1.5 billion in war spending to buy eight new Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-35 jets and 21 additional Boeing Co. (BA) AH-64 Apache helicopters.
The Defense Department asked for the additional jets and helicopters in a Sept. 8 request for permission to shift, or reprogram, about $2 billion in its war operations budget, partly to pay for expanded operations against Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria.
The move to include new aircraft was rejected by the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, one of four spending and authorization panels in the House and Senate that must approve each item in such requests.
Panel members are concerned that the overseas contingency funds — provided separately from the annual defense budget to pay for war operations — are being used to “backfill budgetary shortfalls in acquisition programs that have only tenuous links to the fight in Afghanistan and other current operations,” Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, the subcommittee’s chairman, said in a Sept. 19 letter to Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord.
The Pentagon sought permission to spend $880 million to buy six Lockheed F-35B fighter jets and spares for the Marine Corps to replace six older Marine AV-8B Harriers destroyed during a September 2012 Taliban attack on Forward Operating Base Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.
That was in addition to the six aircraft and $1.1 billion Congress approved in this year’s base defense budget for the F-35B from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, the most complex model in the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program.