Senator wants bill to keep fighter jet production going

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

WASHINGTON -- With the nation girding for war, Sen. Kit Bond wants the military to split production of the Joint Strike Fighter, regardless of who wins the competition to build it.

Bond, R-Mo., is preparing legislation to keep fighter jets rolling off the lines at Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. The two aerospace giants are vying for a $300 billion contract that the Pentagon will award late next month, and many say the loser will ultimately stop making jet fighters.

The senator's office said Monday that Bond is working out details but plans to introduce an amendment that would allow workers to build the aircraft at Lockheed in Fort Worth, Texas, and at Boeing in St. Louis, where the work could require thousands of new employees.

Congress ordered the Pentagon to award the business to a sole contractor in last year's defense bill. Bond planned to offer his proposal as part of this year's defense authorization bill, which is being debated this week on the Senate floor, Bond spokesman Ernie Blazar said, although he also might choose a later defense spending bill as a vehicle.

A Lockheed spokesman declined to comment on the idea, while Boeing did not return a telephone call. At the Pentagon, spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said it's premature to discuss Bond's idea.

Bond's motives transcend the interests of either company, his spokesman said: "His primary concern here is the adequacy of the defense industrial base."

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