FORT WORTH - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday cited consensus among lawmakers, the Pentagon and the White House on the need to reform the defense acquisition process, especially given the current economic situation.

Gates, speaking to Bloomberg TV during a tour of the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) plant where it builds the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, said he had emphasized to company officials the need to stay on schedule with the fighter program, the world's largest-ever weapons program.

He praised the new fighter, and said plans to build three variants of one airplane, would save money in the long run. But he called Lockheed's presidential helicopter program a poster child for a defense acquisition process gone wrong, and said there was no reason to throw good money after bad. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa, Editing by Maureen Bavdek)