February 1, 2011  

Engine stall

TO Representative TOM ROONEY, R-Fla., for his amendment to strike funding for the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Passage of the Rooney amendment was a rare Beltway moment on two counts: It had bipartisan support and it halted a program that the White House and the Pentagon have been unable to kill. The likelihood is that the alternate engine program has not yet seen its last days; the lobbying will continue and the program has its supporters in the Senate. The Pentagon should also be more honest about the origins of the alternate engine, which DoD created by declaring from the beginning of the F-35 program that it wanted dual-source engines. DoD never held a competition for the F-35 engine; the truth is its U-turn on dual-source came only after the aircraft program costs skyrocketed out of control. Cutting alternative engine development funding was one way to offset some of the budget busts. If the defense secretary is truly serious about stopping wasteful spending, he should target the aircraft manufacturer, not an engine supplier. Nonetheless, Rooney showed how to achieve serious work in serious times. By taking the amendment to an open vote in the House, he stripped lawmakers of the behind-the-doors pork tactics and the amendment was carried by a convincing 233-199 margin.