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Gates Fires the Head of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program

See this guy? Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Heinz? He’s the program manager for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a program plagued by cost overruns. Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, just fired him.

One reporter called it a “bombshell” in a still-ongoing press briefing. But Gates canceled the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet in favor of making the JSF the replacement jet, as, among other reasons, it’s operable across both the Navy and the Air Force. But defense reformers have pointed to the JSF’s ballooning costs as similarly problematic. Gates just said that the program’s coming under fiscal control. But he said he couldn’t put the program back in order “without people being held accountable.” So says a defense secretary who two years ago fired the entire leadership of the Air Force over a nuclear weapons mishap. If there’s a theme to Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, he said, it’s that “when things go wrong, people will be held accountable.”

Unless I misunderstood Gates, Heinz’s deputy, Air Force Maj. Gen. C.D. Moore, will head up the F-35 program office for the time being.

Update, 1:49 p.m.: I think I did misunderstand Gates. Pressed on who takes over the program, Gates demurred, saying an announcement is forthcoming.

Update 2, 1:55 p.m.: Don’t miss Noah Shachtman’s detailed post on Gates’ JSF bombshell.

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