For the fourth year in a row, the House Armed Services Committee has ignored Pentagon recommendations (including a veto threat from Sec. Gates) and approved the continued development of the F136 alternate engine, developed by General Electric and Rolls-Royce, for the F-35 fighter aircraft program.
The measure would require the Pentagon to budget for the alternate engine starting in fiscal 2012 and withhold 25 percent of fiscal 2011 funds for F-35 development until the Pentagon’s top arms buyer certified that all funds for the engine’s development and procurement had been made available.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett said during the markup today that “competition is warranted and critical and costs nothing more, according to the GAO.”
This isn’t quite true. Money for the upfront costs of building and buying an alternate engine are not included in current DoD plans, so any increase is just that – an increase – and any actual savings brought about by competition will easily be eaten up.
“Study on top of study has shown that an extra fighter engine achieves marginal potential savings but heavy upfront costs — nearly $3 billion worth,” Gates said on May 8.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell reiterated later today that Gates would recommend a veto if Congress budgets any funds for the alternate engine:
Pursuing an extra engine is an unnecessary luxury we simply cannot afford, especially in our current fiscal condition… Any savings that might result from an engine competition are years away, purely hypothetical and likely modest at best.
Morrell went on to say that amount we will spend to complete an alternate engine for the F-35 “would prevent us from providing our warfighters with more urgently needed equipment.”