WASHINGTON (AP) — A panel of the House of Representatives took a step on Wednesday toward reviving the alternate engine for the next-generation F-35 fighter plane over the objections of President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who consider the engine wasteful spending.
By voice vote, the Armed Services subcommittee that oversees land and air forces approved legislation that would force the Pentagon to re-open competition if it has to ask Congress for more money so Pratt & Whitney can build the chosen engine. Inevitably in military contracting, the Defense Department has to seek more money for highly sophisticated warplanes.
The provision would apply to Pentagon spending in the next budget year.
When Congress passed a long-delayed 2011 defense budget in April, it contained no money for the extra engine. It was part of the deal worked out by Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican. The Pentagon recently notified the General Electric/Rolls Royce group that it had terminated its contract and work was stopped a month ago, saving $1 million a day.
Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the subcommittee chairman, said that was a mistake.
"Many of us believe it was short-sighted for Congress to have failed to fund the F-35 competitive engine program for the remainder of the fiscal year," Bartlett said. "Yes, our country faces major fiscal challenges. However, to continue to fully fund a $1 trillion F-35 aircraft program and not take the opportunity to maintain competition in the $110 billion engine subcomponent of the program is not in .... the long-term best interests of the program and taxpayers."
In February, first-year House Republican freshmen led the charge in voting to cancel $450 million for the alternative engine, going against Boehner and other House leaders. The House vote was 233-198, with many lawmakers arguing that it was a surefire way to fulfill campaign promises they had made to cut spending.