You would think that with an approval rating of 18%, Congress would be a bit more wary about wasting more of your tax dollars. Think again. In their report “Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine,” David Williams and Sean Kennedy of Citizens Against Government Waste shed light on members of the House choosing to waste another $485 million on an alternate Joint Strike Fighter engine when one is just fine and the Department of Defense doesn’t want two.
The DOD awarded Lockheed Martin the bid to build the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the largest acquisition program within the DOD, with a total cost estimate of $300 billion. So far, the program has been ridden with cost overruns of $55 billion, and delivery dates have been pushed back from the initial 2012 target to 2015. The winning engine chosen by Lockheed Martin was the Pratt & Whitney F135, a variant of the highly successful engine used in the F-22, the Pratt & Whitney F119, which has over 50,000 hours of testing.
Even though their engine was not chosen, General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce have been successful in lobbying for billions of taxpayer dollars to work on their engine (the F136). Special interest proponents in Congress have used the weak argument that “you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket.” In reality, using two engines forces the DOD to maintain the following inefficiencies: two tails, which is military speak for the logistics operations to support them, two sets of tooling component improvement parts, additional training manuals, and extra storage for such parts to support JSFs on already space-confined aircraft carriers. In spite of these additional costs, GE is getting your tax dollars because congressmen are trying to save their political lives. As proof, all but four signatories in a letter to President Obama on April 23, 2009, were from Indiana and Ohio—states where GE plants dedicated to the alternate engine are located.
Once again, the Senate seems set to let the spending continue on the alternate engine even as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates threatens to recommend that President Obama veto the final budget if it’s included. “One of the members of Congress, I’m told, said, well, why is $3 billion for the alternative engine such a big deal when we’ve got a trillion-dollar deficit? I would submit that’s one of the reasons we have a trillion-dollar deficit, is that kind of thinking,” Gates said in May.
Money used to pay for the alternate engine is hurting our national defense and pushing adequate defense capability further into the future. By the time it’s completed, the alternate engine could waste as much as $7.2 billion, or the cost of 53 F-35 jets. The alternate engine boondoggle has been one of the most incredible examples of wasteful spending and incompetence of leadership in the history of Washington. Rather than doing what’s best for you and me, our leaders in Washington continue to do what’s best for them.