Every four years, the Department of Defense is reviewed in the legislatively-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), from which a long-term course is defined and DoD strategies are rebalanced to address tomorrow’s conflicts and threats.
In the upcoming 2014 review, “everything is on the table”… well, everything except for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that is, according to Air Force QDR director Maj. Gen. Steven Kwast.
Kwast addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in DC on Wednesday, and made clear that the continued development of the F-35 remains an Air Force priority and would not be canceled without a presidential order to do so.
The QDR is intended to look at needs independent of resources, and Kwast cautioned against taking an eye off of future needs when considering finances. While the F-35 is considered the most expensive weapons program in history, Kwast sees the stealth fighter as our nation’s best tool in projecting power in contested environments.
Kwast further threw cold water on the idea that the Air Force move away from manned aircraft, stating that while remotely piloted aircraft are useful for intelligence and surveillance missions, these technologies are not a cure-all as they won’t survive contested airspace.
The goal, Kwast said, “is to ensure that the Air Force can bring to bear the capabilities to drive reassurance to our friends, that we can drive deterrence to those that might oppose America’s desire to be a leader for peace and good in this world, and that we can deliver it in any environment – contested or uncontested.”
To Kwast and others, the F-35 gives the US unprecedented comparative advantage against “any potential adversary”, and unlike previous aircraft that specialized in providing one primary capability, the F-35 keeps us well ahead of our enemy.
The news of continued Air Force support for the F-35 program may be no surprise to the team at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, which has the largest fleet of the fighters and where 72 pilots are slated to graduate F-35 transition pilot training by the end of this year.
Karen Cyphers, PhD, is a public policy researcher, political consultant, and mother to three daughters. She can be reached at email@example.com.