Last month, the House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization, including funding for a second engine for the F-35 fighter jet that the Department of Defense has repeatedly said it doesn’t want. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has gone so far as to recommended that President Obama veto the defense authorization if it includes money for the “costly and unnecessary” engine. But still, the House approved it, bowing to the efforts of 13 different lobbying firms and defense contractors across the country.
To its credit, the Senate Armed Services Committee did not include funding for the engine in its version of the defense authorization. This has led the second engine’s manufacturer to make an appearance at the National Press Club claiming that it’s vitally important to the taxpayer that money continue to be wasted on an engine no one wants:
“It is important to the warfighter, the industrial base and the taxpayer that this program continues to exist,” said Dennis Jarvi, president of Roll-Royce’s U.S. operations…”We’re not looking for a hand-out. All we’re looking for is an opportunity to compete.”
Rolls Royce officials, of course, “emphasized how deeply the London-based corporation is embedded in the United States, with 6,500 employees at 18 facilities in a dozen states,” exemplifying the congressional-military-industrial complex. But, given the nation’s long-term structural deficits, it is completely irresponsible to perpetuate the creation of weapons system that do nothing for national security and that even the Pentagon says serve no useful purpose.
The argument from second engine proponents is that having the federal government pay for two engines results in competition that will drive down prices for the entire program in the long run. Pentagon officials respond that “while competition would be nice, the alternative engine program does not guarantee sufficient benefits to risk additional cost hikes or developmental problems.”
U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has referred to the second engine as “another rock” on top of the F-35 program. President Obama has said regarding the second engine, “our military does not want or need these programs being pushed by the Congress, and should Congress ignore this fact, I will veto any such legislation so that it can be returned to me without those provisions.”