Today, in an 11-5 vote, the House defense appropriations committee approved the purchase of a second engine for the F-35 jet fighter, despite the Pentagon explicitly saying that the engine is a big waste of money. In fact, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called the second engine “costly and unnecessary,” and has repeatedly recommended that President Obama veto the 2011 defense spending bill if it ultimately contains the funding. U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has referred to the engine as “another rock” on top of the F-35 program.
Making matters worse, Congress’ insistence on funding the wasteful program comes at the same time that deficit hysteria is preventing any and all measures to combat the Great Recession from easily moving on Capitol Hill. And one of the loudest voices fearmongering about further spending is House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). “Republicans are offering better solutions to cut spending now and provide the fiscal discipline economists say is needed to put people back to work,” Boehner has claimed.
But when the opportunity to discard a program that the Pentagon has said isn’t worth it comes along, where is Boehner?:
The engine’s supporters, who include the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, contend that competition could produce better engines and reduce the risks of problems with the Joint Strike Fighter, or F-35, a single-engine jet that represents the Pentagon’s largest weapons program.
And Boehner’s insistence on perpetuating the wasteful program stands in stark contrast to his proclamation earlier this year that all wasteful Pentagon spending “ought to be eliminated”:
I don’t think any agency of the federal government should be exempt from rooting out wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. And I, frankly, I would agree with it at the Pentagon. There’s got to be wasteful spending there, unnecessary spending there. It all ought to be eliminated.
Regarding Boehner’s argument that competition will produce better engines, Pentagon officials have responded “while competition would be nice, the alternative engine program does not guarantee sufficient benefits to risk additional cost hikes or developmental problems.” But Boehner’s love for the F-35 second engine is almost certainly due to the fact that it brings jobs to Ohio. General Electric — which produces the engine — has a plant right outside of Boehner’s home district.
Boehner’s position on the second engine makes him — like many in the GOP — a deficit peacock, willing to use the deficit to score political points but not willing to make the necessary choices to eliminate it. As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, “any conversation about the deficit that leaves out defense spending is seriously flawed before it begins…I fear that if we can’t decide what we can afford to do without today, we’ll be forced to make much more draconian cuts in the years to come.”