Congress Drops Funding For Controversial Jet Engine

Government spent billions on second engine for Joint Strike Fighter.

May 19, 2010, 4:31 PM

Sept. 14, 2010 — -- Congress today rejected funding for a jet engine that both the Pentagon and President Obama have indicated they do not want.

Previously, Congress had poured $3 billion into building a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, despite the fact that the military jet already has a working engine. In July, a House subcommittee appropriations panel had approved $450 million in additional funds for the alternate engine, which was developed by General Electric and Rolls Royce.

On Tuesday, despite strong support from chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, D.-Hawaii, the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee decided to drop the program during its markup of the defense spending bill.

However, a similar situation occurred in 2009 and the program received its funding after all, later in the budget process. GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said the company hopes for the same outcome.

"This played out the exact same way last year…Senator Inouye had opted not to provide a markup for the engine in the Senate Appropriations subcommittee because he wanted to avoid a confusing full-floor battle. We're optimistic for the program because the leadership of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, both Senator Inouye from Hawaii and Senator Chad Cochran from Mississippi are both very avid supporters of the program and so we anticipate that they will support the program when they got to budget conference later this year."

President Obama had threatened to veto the defense bill if it included funding for the engine, and Defense Secretary Gates had already indicated his objection to the second engine. Supporters argue that having the two developers compete would make a better, cheaper product in the long run.

A spokesperson for Pratt Whitney, developers of the Joint Strike Fighter's original engine, said the company was pleased with the subcommittee's decision.

"As seen in 2009, the Senate has determined that the Department of Defense could better spend these funds on other equipment our troops need today," said Erin Dick. "This Senate action is a clear message that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense supports President Obama and Secretary Gates in their position that funding an alternate engine will not save taxpayer's money or improve military readiness in any way."

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