Threat Of A Presidential Veto Is Still There
The full U.S. House of
Representatives on Thursday approved a defense authorization bill
for FY2011 that once again includes funding for the F136 alternate
engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. It is the 4th year in a row
that the House has voted to maintain funding for the program.
The vote is in contrast with the Senate Armed Services
Committee, which reported out its version of the bill without F136
funding. President Obama has again made noises about vetoing the
bill should it come to his desk with the alternate engine funding
intact. He made the same threat last year, but wound up signing the
Reuters reports that the house included $485 million next year
for GE to continue to develop and test the engine, which the
company has said it will offer on a fixed-price basis. Pratt &
Whitney has already delivered the last of its test engines, as well
as the first production lot, to prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
GE contends that not having a second engine for the F35 means that
Pratt & Whitney will have a monopoly on powering the JSF, which
also has the potential of grounding the entire fleet should a
problem be discovered with the engine. It further contends that the
sole-source engine violates Pentagon acquisition rules. The House
Armed Services Committee apparently agreed with GE on one point,
saying in its recommendation to the full House that the sole-source
engine for the F35 was a "national security issue" because the
aircraft is expected to eventually make up 95% of the U.S. Tactical
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he would go so far as
to recommend a Presidential veto of the 2011 defense authorization
bill, which is a blueprint for spending what ever money is
eventually appropriated for the defense budget.
The White House said in a statement
Friday that a veto could be forthcoming. President Obama promised
to veto any legislation that includes funding for an alternate
engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter or more C-17 cargo jets,
expressing his "strong support" for Defense Secretary Robert M.
Gates' budget-reform effort. "As the Congress continues its work on
funding bills for the Department of Defense, I want to reiterate my
strong support for the reforms Secretary Gates is advancing at the
Pentagon," Obama said in a written statement the White House
released Friday. "He has kept me fully apprised of his efforts to
reform how our military operates and bring needed efficiencies to
the Department of Defense."
Obama said he stands "squarely behind" Gates' position on the
second F-35 engine and the C-17 program.
In a statement, GE said the vote "... reaffirmed the
Congress’ strong and long-standing commitment to the F136
program. It is a win for competition and a win for the American
taxpayers. The JSF competitive engine will save $20 billion over
the 30-year span of the Joint Strike Fighter program, according to
the independent Government Accountability Office.
“GE is deeply gratified by the support it received from
House members, and the House Armed Services Committee leadership,
who voted to continue funding the competing JSF engine. These
members demonstrated strong support for the core principle of
acquisition reform – competition.”