I went high and to the right...initially I thought that he was stuck on stupid because of the failure of the A-12 program. But just like everyone else I overthought the issue.
Its much simpler than that. The US Navy and by a bit of arms twisting the USMC are the only buyers for the F-35C. It is on track to be the most expensive, least produced model by far. The CNO wasn't actually doubting stealth, he was outlining a plan on how to reduce the buy and justify doing so. Its a matter of priorities. Carrier Air must survive even if its relegated to second day of war missions only. His proposal to concentrate on payloads over platforms is Eurocentric thinking. Its the same bullshit that EADS uses to sell Eurofighters, Dassault uses to sell Rafales and Boeing is using to sell F-18's. They're hoping that Meteor or AIM-120D's can keep the bad guys at bay. They're hoping that upgrades to avionics (brought to them by the work done on the F-35) will keep their airplanes viable....
He's hoping to keep all his carriers....even if it means putting a second class fighter on their decks.
That statement was about image over substance and a hope that a war against a peer/near peer won't happen till the budget is good to go again.