Norwegian MoD scrutinises US defence budget and F-35

The difficult economic situation in the United States makes this autumn's budget deliberations closely monitored from the Norwegian side. The House of Representatives has recently finalized the budget for 2012 and sent the proposal to the Senate. So far, there have not been any major cuts in the proposal for next year's defense budget, but one cannot ignore the fact that the budget process in the Senate, which is now ongoing, may result in the F-35 program being affected.

"From the Norwegian side, the ongoing budget process in the United States is followed continuously. Considering the financial situation in which the United States now finds itself, it is important to note that there may also be adjustments in programs that affect us," says State Secretary of Defence Roger Ingebrigtsen.

"We are therefore in constant contact and dialogue with U.S. authorities at different levels, so we should be well informed. For the four training aircraft whose acquisition was decided in the spring, we have taken into account a possible adjustment of the purchasing and production plans in our uncertainty analysis," continues Ingebrigtsen.

During the ongoing budget process in the Senate, it appears that one of the committees has proposed reducing funding for the F-35 program. The proposal means that the planned increase in production rate of F-35 will be postponed by two years.

This proposal from the committee is now being taken forward in the budget process and the final decision must be awaited before we know what the 2012 budget for F-35 is.

A decision in line with this proposal could result in a shift of the U.S. procurement plans.

The Norwegian F-35 program has been prepared for such delays, and they also have been taken into account in our cost calculations. But only when the budget is finalized, it can a thorough analysis be done of what a possible shift of the U.S. procurement plan entails. Such analysis is routinely performed by the Norwegian F-35 program when any such changes occur.

The Ministry's analysis of the situation in the United States suggests that there is strong political and military support for the F-35 program. Statements from senior politicians in Congress confirms this, and that the administration and military leaders have repeatedly stated that there are no alternatives to the F-35.

The Defense Ministry continues to follow developments in the budget process in the U.S. and looks continuously at the consequences that a possible cut in the F-35 program from the American side can have for Norwegian participation in the program.

However, there is still considerable uncertainty around the finalization of the U.S. budget and where any cuts are going to be taken.