Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The F-22 and the Alternate Engine

As the Senate begins consideration of the Defense Authorization bill this week, you’re likely to see, hear and read an awful lot about the F-22.

While we don’t want to trivialize the debate on the F-22, it may be getting more than its share of attention. For example, noted defense expert Lawrence Korb wrote last week in the Philadelphia Inquirer about “A Jet Even the Military Doesn’t Want.” Of course, we’ve been talking for months about an engine even the military doesn’t want. Korb mentions the alternate engine and agrees with the argument we’ve been making here that “we cannot waste billions on unnecessary military equipment”, but his column is focused on the F-22.

Similarly, two well known and highly respected government watchdog groups, POGO (Project on Government Oversight) and Taxpayers for Common Sense, wrote a letter to the Senate, urging it to eliminate additional funding for the F-22s. They even criticized the fact that money from the Joint Strike Fighter’s management reserve fund would be used to fund the additional F-22s, but no mention of the alternate engine issue. To it’s credit, Taxpayers for Common Sense mentioned the alternate engine issue in an earlier post on President Obama’s veto threat to Congress, but again, the headliner was the F-22.

Korb laments that the additional F-22s funded by the House will cost U.S. taxpayers about $2 billion. A 2007 GAO report estimated that the alternate engine would cost about $7.2 billion, while a congressionally mandated study by the Pentagon’s Institute for Defense Analysis estimates the cost of the alternate engine at $8.8 billion. That’s real money, and it’s being spent on something that won’t save money or improve the nation’s military readiness.

The alternate engine issue may not be on the front pages of the major newspapers, but it deserves attention and debate. Let us know what you think.

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