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The U.S. deputy defense secretary said he is "100 percent" behind the general tapped to lead the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, who called the relationship between the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin "the worst I have ever seen."
Ashton Carter called Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan a "tremendously able program manager" during a Wednesday speech at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference in National Harbor, Md.
"We've been trying to anticipate the ownership costs of the Joint Strike Fighter to make sure that we begin managing them now," Carter said. "To do that, we need a government-industry team that can work together."
Bogdan, the F-35 deputy program manager, has been nominated to lead the nearly $400 billion F-35 program.
Earlier in the week, Bogdan expressed frustration that the Pentagon and the company have not been able to ink a deal for the fifth production lot of aircraft after nearly a year.
"It should not take 10, 11 or 12 months to negotiate a contract with someone we've been doing business with for 11 years," Bogdan said Monday. "There's something fundamentally wrong with that. We've got to fix it."
Bogdan also cited numerous problems in the F-35 development program, including issues with the pilot's helmet, software and logistics system. In the past year, Lockheed has made progress with the development program, including the start of weapon testing.
As the program transfers from development to production, "this is a very difficult time in the life of the program," Carter said.
Still, Carter reiterated comments by Pentagon leaders that DoD is relying on all three variants of the F-35, one each for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, calling it the "centerpiece" of tactical aviation.
"I think Chris was saying he's got to have that on the Joint Strike Fighter program, and I'm with him 100 percent," Carter said. "That is what we need, and I think that's what we'll get."