January 12, 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.


Congressman Jim Moran: Keep Funding the JSF Alternate Engine

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is four years behind schedule and nearly $150 billion over budget. It comes as no surprise to many who have been following the F-35’s progress that the jet’s current engine, the F-135, faces similar challenges. In fact, the F-135 is now 50% more expensive than its 2001 cost estimate. Just this month it was reported the engine may require another $1 billion to complete.

Last week the House of Representatives approved legislation that would kill the development of one of the few cost control mechanisms remaining for this procurement: the F-136 engine. At the heart of the debate is whether or not Congress is willing to complete the upfront development costs of the F-136, which are estimated to be up to $950 million by the manufacturer. Even though the department has struggled to control the cost growth of this program, we are penny wise and pound foolish in refusing to invest in resources that are projected to save up to $20 billion dollars over the life of the fighter.

I agree with Secretary Gates on many issues, his judgment is usually spot on. But his position of the alternate engine is baffling given that analyses provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have each concluded that investing in competition within the F-35 engine program would be budget neutral and could even save money over the life of the program. Further, funding the F-136 offers non-financial benefits that the DoD enjoyed through competition in the F-16 fighter program. These include the following: improved engine performance, enhanced safety and operational readiness, increased contractor responsiveness and innovation, and a sustained industrial base for future aircraft programs.

Those who cite the F-136 as an “earmark” ignore the fact that development of a second engine for the F-35 was an integral part of the program of record, and was fully funded by the DoD until its fiscal year 2007 budget submission. Some also cite the F-136’s British lineage as an “outsourcing” of American jobs, while remaining silent on the fact that some components of the F-135 will be produced in Turkey and Poland. Finally, both the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review both highlight the importance of competition throughout the life of major weapons programs for all of the benefits I have mentioned.

Cutting unnecessary spending is responsible. I have embraced Secretary Gates’ efforts to reduce the rate of growth of the DoD budget through his efficiency initiatives. However, with regard to sustained competition in the F-35 program, I disagree strongly with efforts to block investment in the F-136.

Congressman Jim Moran, a Democrat, represents the 8th district of Virginia.


Egypt: Be Careful What You Wish For

As peaceful protest gatherings against the Mubarak regime in Egypt turned into mobs, riots, and roving gangs of looters, ordinary Egyptians were surly starting to wonder whether the change method of trying to topple the existing government was a good idea. What started out as a potential people’s revolution in the most populous Arab nation quickly began heading toward the chaotic creation of a major power vacuum, and one in which the protection and stability offered by the admittedly autocratic regime could quickly disappear.

As is the case with many of our developing nation allies, the Mubarak government in Egypt is a less-than-democratic entity with which we have necessarily dealt. But the regime has kept Egypt relatively peaceful, stable, and secure, resulting in close Western political ties, abundant foreign aid, and a thriving tourism industry that comprises more than 10% of the Egyptian economy.

That last fact alone should be a major cause of concern now that the situation has surely halted tourism completely. A sudden vaporization of 10% of any nation’s economy can be ruinous. But in a situation in which citizens are out in the streets burning buildings and vehicles because of dissatisfaction with the state of the nation’s politics and economics (as they indeed were, even before the pro-Mubarak demonstrators came onto the scene), such paradoxical behavior can only serve to exacerbate the grievances.

Supporters of the protesters-turned-rioters, who started out by attacking the Egyptian police and scaring them into abandoning their stations and quitting their jobs, were soon frantically asking where the police protection was. While Tunisia may have rolled the dice and won, the powder keg of Egypt may not be so lucky.


Egyptian Democratization? You Got It.

For years the West has espoused the virtue of democratization - that the ability for peaceful protest, equal representation, true upward mobility in a fair economy is the essence of political evolution, and anything else is less. While the reality is likely not as rosy as might be painted, the level of oppression experienced by the majority of the Egyptian population – the average income of half the population at $2 or less a day – is surely worse than whatever will result from these riots and demonstrations. These folks have experienced true poverty unlike anything on the streets of America’s major cities, and all they want is the ability to move out of it.

Many academics, politicians, and pundits are concerned that the situation in Egypt is regionally inconvenient, and that the instability is bound to make Israel uncomfortable. The solution to maintaining regional peace and stability, however, is not the oppression of neighboring populations by autocratic regimes. As inconvenient as the situation may right now be for regional stability, from the perspective of the millions of Egyptians living in abject poverty, not much could be worse than the current situation.

Ultimately, a democratized Egypt should be a positive thing, reducing conflicts with the West and with Israel. Are we not witnessing the exact domino effect predicted in various iterations of Democratic Peace Theory? If Western countries are so concerned about what will fill the leadership vacuum, then they should provide the resources, influence, infrastructure, etc. so that the worst case scenario does not occur. Regardless, it is the right of the Egyptian people to demand the same freedoms afforded most Westerners, and it is not the right of the West to oppress those demands for the sake of political convenience.

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