March 5, 2023

Congressman Tom Rooney: Defund the JSF Alternate Engine

Last week, by a convincing 233-198 margin, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to end funding for the extra engine of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This vote was a critical step toward ending this wasteful program, which our military leaders have said repeatedly they do not want or need.

The amendment, which I sponsored, will save taxpayers $450 million this year alone and billions more in the years to come. After years of throwing good money after bad to fund the extra engine, I am glad the House has finally recognized that the extra engine is a luxury we simply cannot afford. This vote sent a message to the American people that Congress heard their call to eliminate wasteful spending and put an end to business as usual.

If you’re not familiar with this estimated $6 billion earmark, here’s the back story. In 2001, after a competitive bidding process, the Pentagon awarded a contract to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with the F135 engine. However, Congress continued to set aside billions of dollars for another contractor to build an alternate F136 engine. This was highly unusual, since of our 28 military aircraft, only one (the F-16) uses an alternate engine.

President George W. Bush tried to kill the program during his last two years in office, and President Barack Obama last year threatened to veto any legislation that included extra engine funding. Until last week, however, the House continued funding the wasteful program. As a result, taxpayers have already spent approximately $3 billion to develop the extra engine. The Pentagon estimates it will cost an additional $3 billion to complete development. All for an engine our military leaders say they don’t even want.

A defense dollar wasted is one we won’t have for vital equipment to keep our country safe. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have consistently said the extra engine not only wastes scarce dollars, it also complicates their missions.

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “Spending more money on an extra engine simply makes no sense and diverts limited modernization funds from more pressing DoD priorities.” Funding the extra engine, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David Heinz said, would “take 50 to 80 tails [Joint Strike Fighters] out of the program.”

The Joint Strike Fighter is a crucial link in the defense of freedom. But this particular program does nothing to aid its work. The extra engine will not make our country any safer, but it will take limited resources away from our troops.

I urge the Senate, as it takes up the House spending bill, to follow the House’s lead and end this wasteful program once and for all. If we can’t cut funding for the extra engine program, which is unwanted by our military leaders, how can we convince the American people that we are serious about getting our deficits under control?

Congressman Tom Rooney, a Republican, represents the 16th district of Florida.


  1. Fantastic job, Congressman. There was much I disliked in the budget that your party passed last week, but this was not one of them.

    I hope the cut holds up in conference.

  2. Nice work, but these guy’s guns are blazing away….

  3. A. Blankenship says:

    One thing that will help in analyzing the Congressman’s statements.

    There was never a competitive selection of the F135 engine. It was specified (in 1996) for the prototypes and later the first five lots of the F-35 because as a derivative of the F119 in the F-22, it could be available sooner. It was always planned, and has been documented in the program plan since the beginning, that competitive engine selection would begin with Lot 6.

    The statement that only one of our 28 aircraft (the F-16) uses an alternate engine is technically correct as long as you restrict this to version in US service. However, it’s worthy of note that more F-16s have been ordered with the alternate engine that the original engine, and that all USAF combat coded F-16s use the alternate engine. Abroad, most F-16Cs and later use the alternate engine. On F-15s for export, an alternate engine has become available, and since it has, most orders have been for it. On C-5s, as they get rebuilt into C-5Ms, they get a totally different engine, but maybe that doesn’t meet the definition of “alternate”.

    The F136 alternate engine may or may not be a good idea, but to decide, we need to have the whole backstory.

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