A Better St. Louis. Powered by Journalism.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Print
  • Email

Senate panel approves F/A-18 purchase, delays Jefferson Barracks action

In Washington

5:55 pm on Thu, 05.24.12

WASHINGTON – The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a defense bill Thursday that would maintain the production lines of the F-18 in St. Louis, nix a new base-closing round, and block an Air Force plan to shut down air guard units, including one at Jefferson Barracks.

While the Senate defense bill’s $631 billion price tag for fiscal 2013 is about $4 billion less than the House-passed version, the provisions of the two bills with direct impact in Missouri and Illinois appeared to be similar. Those include:

  • Purchase of 26 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters and 12 EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft for a total of more than $3 billion. Both are made at the Boeing Corp. plant in Hazelwood, where nearly 5,000 workers help support the production lines.
  • An additional $60 million (about $15 million more than the House bill) in “advance procurement funds” for the F/A-18 program. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the funds “would go toward filling in the gap on our [aircraft] carriers because the [F-35] Joint Strike Fighter is so far over schedule and, frankly, so far over budget.”
  • Despite continued complaints about its cost and development, Lockheed-Martin Corp.’s F-35 program was funded. The full House had defeated an effort to de-fund the Joint Strike Fighter, and the House Armed Services committed watered down an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, to hold up half of the procurement funds for an F-35 variant until the Pentagon provided Congress with a battle-ready date for the aircraft.
  • Blocks the Air Force from its planned Air National Guard cuts and, like the House bill, tells the Air Force it “cannot do things like it is trying to do at Jefferson Barracks,” in McCaskill's words, until a commission reports next spring on the impact of such cutbacks. Earlier this year, the Air Force said it intended to eliminate the 121st Air Control Squadron at Jefferson Barracks next year – at a loss of about 200 positions, including more than 40 full-time jobs – as part of a nationwide cutback. That unit had been reactivated in 2010 and was provided last year with more than $40 million worth of new equipment, including a 77-foot-high radar tower.
  • Rejects the Pentagon’s request to open a new base-closing (BRAC) round next year. Such a proceeding might have affected the large bases in Missouri and Illinois, such as Scott Air Force Base, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base.

“There will be no BRAC closures” in the next fiscal year, said McCaskill. “We must wait until we get a full accounting and reporting from the previous BRAC closures” to determine why closing bases sometimes leads to little savings. She and other senators want more scrutiny of shrinking U.S. bases abroad.

The F/A-18

In a statement to the Beacon, Boeing said Thursday that the defense budget for the next fiscal year remains “a work in progress, so it is still too early to conclude what it ultimately will mean for Boeing and our customers.”

However, Boeing called the F/A-18 “a model defense program” and added in the statement that “as we monitor the defense budget process, we will continue to deliver on our current multi-year procurement contract for Super Hornets and Growlers.”

Late in 2010, the Navy awarded Boeing a $5.3 billion multi-year procurement contract for 124 Super Hornet and Growler aircraft.


Under its terms, Boeing was scheduled to deliver 66 Super Hornets and 58 Growlers to the Navy from 2012 through 2015. Even so, to keep those purchases on schedule, Congress must continue to appropriate the money to buy the aircraft.

Eventually, the Pentagon wants variants of the radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – a program that has been plagued by delays, performance questions and huge cost overruns that Akin says make it “the most expensive acquisition program in history” – to replace the Hornet and two other military aircraft, the F-16 and the A-10.

“I’ve been advocating for a blend of the F/A-18 and the Joint Strike Fighter because the F/A-18 costs half as much and has 80 percent of the capability,” McCaskill said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also told reporters this week that he questions the cost and development programs of the F-35.

Akin, in an interview with the Beacon last week and in an oped, said he was getting impatient with the problems and costs of the F-35 program, which he said “needs to deliver on the promises it has made or we and our allies will have no choice but to find solutions elsewhere.”

Bill includes McCaskill contracting priorities

McCaskill, who chairs an Armed Services subcommittee on military readiness, said she was “disappointed” that the full committee’s markup session – in which the final bill is amended and approved – was closed to the public. She said she was one of eight senators who voted unsuccessfully to open the markup session.

Even so, McCaskill said she was heartened that the full panel approved provisions passed by her subcommittee, including parts of the Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act of 2012. The bill, which she jointly sponsored with Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., would implement some of last summer’s recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the two senators had helped establish in 2007.

“Most of the priorities I had ... made it into the bill,” said McCaskill, adding that provisions of that legislation that made it into the Armed Services bill would:

  • Bolster whistleblower protections provided to employees of government contractors who raise the alarm on waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Overhaul aspects of the federal government’s planning, management and oversight of contracting during overseas contingency operations.
  • Impose a lower cap on the amount of taxpayer funds paid to executives of companies that contract with the government.

The committee also endorsed a 5 percent reduction, over five years, in civilian personnel and federal contractors and rejected a proposed increase in fees to TRICARE military medical program.

It also declined to endorse House-passed provisions (supported by Akin and most Republicans) that would have authorized an East Coast missile defense program. Instead, the Senate calls on the Pentagon to assess the feasibility of such as site, according to Senate Armed Services chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

This story includes information provided by Jo Mannies of the Beacon staff.

No Comments

Join The Beacon

When you register with the Beacon, you can save your searches as news alerts, rsvp for events, manage your donations and receive news and updates from the Beacon team.

Register Now

Already a Member

Getting around the new site

Take a look at our tutorials to help you get the hang of the new site.

Most Discussed Articles By Beacon Members

Conference of American nuns will mull response to Vatican charges

In Nation

7:55 am on Fri, 08.03.12

Meeting in St. Louis next week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will have its first opportunity as an assembled group to consider what to do after the Vatican issued a mandate for change this spring. It calls on the conference to reorganize and more strictly observe church teachings.

The 'free' Zoo

In Commentary

7:51 am on Tue, 05.22.12

When a family of four goes to the St. Louis Zoo, they can be forgiven for not knowing it will cost them $60, $72 if they park. If they can't pay, the alternative is to tell the kids they can't do what kids do at the zoo.

Featured Articles

House sends Boeing incentive bill to Nixon

In Economy

12:55 pm on Fri, 12.06.13

The Missouri House easily passed legislation aimed at attracting production of the 777x, a move that wraps up a legislative special session that saw little suspense and few surprises. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who has strongly supported the legislation.

Gandhi inspired Mandela on South Africa's 'Long Road to Freedom'

In World

10:10 am on Fri, 12.06.13

Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was a towering moral figure of the 20th century -- along with Mahatma Gandhi. It was no coincidence that Gandhi and Mandela, whose paths never crossed directly, both embarked on their campaigns against discrimination in South Africa. It was when Mandela won election as South Africa’s first black president that Gandhi's influence became apparent.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Encore: Dead before death

In Performing Arts

12:58 am on Fri, 12.06.13

For years , the author was certain he would never come to appreciate The Grateful Dead, let alone be a Deadhead. But little by little, he's come around. He talks about his conversion and relates a real evolution: by a musician who went on to play with the Schwag, a Dead cover band.

Featured Articles

Schlichter honored with St. Louis Award

In Region

4:57 pm on Tue, 12.03.13

The attorney has founded Arch Grants, which brings together nonprofit philanthropy and commercially viable opportunitiesto fund new business startups, and Mentor St. Louis, which finds adult mentors for elementary students in the St. Louis Public School System. He was the driving force behind the state's historic tax credit program.

BioGenerator sets open house to celebrate new digs for entrepreneurs-in-residence

In InnovationSTL

12:29 pm on Tue, 11.12.13

BioSTL's BioGenerator organization is on the move as its entrepreneurs-in-residence find a new home in 4,300 square feet of office and conference space in an old automobile factory. The blossoming program, which helps BioGenerator's portfolio companies to get off the ground, continues to pay dividends within the growing biotech community.

Ambassadors aim to soften rough landing for St. Louis immigrants

In InnovationSTL

6:34 am on Fri, 11.08.13

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is set to hold an orientation for its new ambassadors -- dozens of foreign and native-born volunteers who aim to help make the community a more welcoming place for those from other nations. Participants will be expected to do everything from visiting local restaurants serving international cuisine to having dinner with an immigrant to the area.

Recent Articles

More Articles

Innovation and entrepreneurial activity are on the rise in St. Louis, especially in bioscience, technology and alternative energy. The Beacon's InnovationSTL section focuses on the people who are part of this wave, what they're doing and how this is shaping our future. To many St. Louisans, this wave is not yet visible. InnovationSTL aims to change that. We welcome you to share your knowledge, learn more about this vibrant trend and discuss its impact.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Featured Articles

Featured Events:

Upcoming Events

View Full Calendar

More About The Beacon Home