While the nation’s top uniformed officer says the U.S. military is committed to developing a fifth-generation fighter jet, he indicates that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be on a path to a slowdown.

“There are some fact-of-life changes that we’ll probably have to make based on the ability to procure on the time lines that we’d like to have,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Dec. 9 event sponsored by the Atlantic Council.

U.S. funding problems could be exacerbated by economic woes across the Atlantic Ocean, he adds. If the euro zone collapses, “they’d have to make some national decisions about reallocation of resources that could potentially have to affect the JSF,” he says.

Dempsey, who has been studying up on economic policy at West Point and the U.S. Federal Reserve, says he is still knee-deep in planning current and future Pentagon budgets.

In the near term, strategic changes are “not incremental, nor are they something I’d describe as bold,” he says; rather, he called the changes “significant.”

He is building toward bolder changes by 2020 that will not be rolled out during this budget cycle, posing hypothetical overhauls, such as making Special Operations Command the global combatant command.

Dempsey stopped short of describing details of either the Pentagon’s ongoing strategic review or the potential effects of steep, congressionally directed budget cuts on the military.

To that end, the military, he says, received notice of more than $450 billion in long-term reductions only eight or nine weeks ago. “We just literally have not had the intellectual bandwidth to think about it and to do any of the analytics related to sequester.”

He says the military is looking at rebalancing and how to remain capable on many fronts in an era of lower budgets. “Everything we do is in the context of understanding the economic condition of our nation and understanding that our national power is the sum of military, economic and diplomatic power. You can’t ignore that fact,” Dempsey says. “We’re looking at what we can afford to do.”