Friday, December 17, 2010

JSF Alternate Engine Hits Congressional Headwinds

By Michael Bruno

The General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter program looked increasingly vulnerable Dec. 15 when efforts to prolong the controversial program appeared to be losing steam in Congress.
In separate but related actions Dec. 14-15, defense lawmakers and their aides said they have worked out a quick compromise to help pass defense authorization legislation for Fiscal 2011, not including an earmark for the engine, while a Senate Democratic appropriations proposal that included F136 language ran into growing conservative opposition.
The authorization measure – stripped down after a provision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy stopped an earlier version – does not authorize or restrict obligations for the F-35 engines or aircraft, leaving the fate of the F136 in the hands of appropriators.
“Because of the unique circumstances in which the bill is being considered and the importance of the legislation to our men and women serving in uniform at a time of war, we have agreed to drop many controversial provisions that were included in the House and Senate versions of the bill,” explained Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and ranking Republican John McCain (Ariz.).
The House version of the compromise was introduced there late Dec. 15. A 29-page summary provided by departing House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) only mentioned the JSF in the context of a potential naval tactical aircraft shortfall.
“Barring a complete reversal of the development and performance failures in the Joint Strike Fighter program, Congress expects future budget submissions to continue the production of F-18s to prevent our naval airpower from losing significance in our nation’s arsenal,” the summary said. It is estimated that by Fiscal 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps inventory could be at least 250 aircraft short of current requirements—the equivalent of five carrier air wings.
Meanwhile, a so-called omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal 2011 unveiled Dec. 14 by Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) that earmarks for the F136 drew threats of filibuster and general opposition from several conservative senators who cited a desire to rein in earmarks in general. The measure contrasts with a continuing resolution (CR) of Fiscal 2010 spending that the House passed last week, which if enacted could provide an opening for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to literally terminate the F136, although the Pentagon has not indicated what it would do specifically (Aerospace DAILY, Dec. 2).
For his part, Gates – who opposes the F136 as does the White House – on Dec. 15 urged Congress to pass an omnibus even while he did not explicitly endorse or criticize Inouye’s legislation. In a prepared statement Gates argued against another CR of Fiscal 2010 because “the heavy volume of reprogrammings needed to manage the vast and complex operations of this department under a year-long continuing resolution would slow our efforts to meet unanticipated wartime needs.”
A Gates spokesman reiterated the Obama administration’s opposition to the alternate powerplant. “Secretary Gates’ position on the extra engine is well known and unchanged: the department does not need it and cannot afford it,” said Pentagon representative Geoff Morrell. “Opposition to the extra engine and support for an omnibus spending bill need not be mutually exclusive.”


No comments:

Post a Comment

no offensive and abusive language please