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Dempsey Questions Affordability of Three F-35 Variants: Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, said he is "supportive without caveat" of developing the F-35 strike fighter, but is concerned whether the nation "can afford all three" variants given the tightening defense budget. "Three variants create some fiscal challenges for us," he told the House Armed Services Committee last week. Dempsey was responding to a question from Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) on his level of commitment to the Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variant, which has faced some developmental hiccups. "That's something we have to keep an eye on," answered Dempsey during the Oct. 13 hearing. He added, however, that he has "great respect" for the judgments of Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos—who is confident that the F-35B will overcome its engineering challenges and successfully pass its two-year "probation" period. (See also F-35B Makes First Ship Landing and Plan B.)