Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Former Pentagon Correspondent: American engine-uity at its best!

Former CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre on the extra engine:

So I totally get why having two manufacturers make two different engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter makes so much sense.

Oh sure, the Pentagon and all the services say they don’t want or need an extra engine that they can’t afford, but really, what do they know? Blah, Blah, Blah…

When I was at the Pentagon I sat down with then Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England back in 2008, he explained in great detail how the second engine would not actually save money, improve reliability or increase safety. But really, he was in the Bush Administration, and so was Bob Gates, who opposes the extra engine, too. Do they really know what’s best?

And sure the whole idea of the F-35 was to give every service the same basic plane, with variations, so that you could have one common supply chain and training for mechanics.

But for only an extra $2.9 Billion we the taxpayers can have two production lines, two supply chains and two sets of military maintenance personnel. What a deal! As they sang in the old Doublemint chewing gums commercials, “Double your pleasure, double your fun…”

The full post is here

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Wasteful Earmark of Monumental Proportions

In Pratt & Whitney’s latest print ad, entitled “Monumental Waste,” the company cleverly reminds Washington lawmakers and other key audiences that despite all the diversionary tactics employed by the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 team, their engine simply attempts to duplicate what the F135 already does, just like a mythical second Washington Monument on the National Mall. Such needless waste, at least $2.9 billion more according to the Defense Department, to stage a farcical split-buy “competition” years from now flies in the face of long-standing, bipartisan presidential and Pentagon policy, as well as basic common sense.

As James Hackett noted in a November 18th article in The Washington Times, “With the Congressional Budget Office forecasting a $1.3 trillion deficit next year, for the third year in a row of trillion-plus deficits, the Senate action [eliminating additional F136 funding] makes sense. We no longer can afford such costs for hypothetical future savings.”

Yet, some members of Congress, including on the House Armed Services Committee, are so bewitched by the F136 mirage that they are trying to insert – yes, you guessed it – an earmark potentially valued at $465 million into a continuing resolution. This parochial tactic is usually reserved for appropriation bills, not continuing resolutions. Moreover, doing so would betray recent post-election commitments to American taxpayers to pursue a path of fiscal prudence, most notably the abolition of wasteful earmarks.

To make matters worse, GE is seeking $25 million in new tax credits from Massachusetts in return for laying off fewer people than planned in the months to come. This cynical ploy becomes even more distasteful when you take into account the $1.8 billion in military work done at a plant in Lynn, Massachusetts. Yet the corporation still laid off 600 workers there and paid no federal income tax last year on $11 billion in profits by claiming its U.S. operations lost money overall. Undaunted, GE fights on to preserve the unaffordable and underperforming F136 extra engine. Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi put it succinctly on November 21 when she wrote, “In other words, GE is demanding $25 million in tax credits for a plant that makes jet engines the Pentagon doesn’t need or want.”

Thanksgiving may be over, but clearly there is at least one more turkey still hanging around. The F136 and the shameful politics that keep it alive have more than earned their just desserts.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The “Right” Battle Against a Wasteful Earmark

As new, predominantly conservative members of the 112th Congress arrive in Washington and begin their freshman orientation, they might find that a prime example of wasteful earmarks in an era of nearly unprecedented economic and geopolitical challenges is closer than they thought. Numerous otherwise well-intentioned legislators from both parties are preaching fiscal restraint while at the same time supporting a further $2.9 billion through FY2015 for the unnecessary, unwanted, underperforming and unproven General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Not surprisingly, a chorus of fiscal conservatives has joined two consecutive presidential administrations and the Pentagon leadership in an unambiguous call to end a multi-billion dollar gamble whose only assured outcome is the outsourcing of hundreds of aerospace jobs to the United Kingdom. We’ve highlighted some of these “voices from the right” in one of our newest print ads.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform was unequivocal when he urged members of Congress over the summer to “vote against any funding for the F136 engine program.” He added, “There is nothing competitive about an entrenched political subsidy for an unnecessary and unwanted product.”

Conservative syndicated columnist and radio host Cal Thomas called the F136, “The military’s version of a Bridge to Nowhere,” a reference to one of the most infamous examples of earmarks in contemporary American politics. Like that would-be bridge, the F136 would merely duplicate a proven solution (Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine) with something far more expensive and immature.

Keeping his eye on the big picture, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, noted, “It’s time to get out of the alternate engine morass and instead work harder to keep the whole F-35 program on-time and on-budget.” As Mr. Sepp rightly acknowledges, the F-35 and other weapon systems will only prove their value to the warfighter and taxpayer if they are fully developed and deployed. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have already said there is no room for a second engine on their aircraft carriers and the U.S. Air Force surely can’t relish the prospect of repeating the F-16 nightmare of supporting two different engines across the globe. Yet, that’s precisely what the myopic GE/RR F136 team would foist on America.

Last, but certainly not least, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe concluded, “GE typifies the large rent-seeking companies that wage battle not in the marketplace, but in the halls of Congress. Taxpayers and consumers cannot afford to fund the pet projects of politicians and corporations, especially in an economic downturn.” Kibbe’s comment rings especially true because the competition to power the JSF was waged years ago and culminated in multiple decisions in favor of the Pratt & Whitney F135 over the F136 through the widely accepted Contractor Furnished Equipment (CFE) procurement system.

Following a rancorous midterm election cycle, the time to govern will soon begin for the 112th Congress. For Capitol Hill veterans and newcomers alike, fiscal restraint at home and success on the battlefield should be of paramount importance. Taxpayers and warfighters want to believe their leaders, like their doctors, are committed above all to “First, do no harm.” Surgical removal of the unwanted F136 earmark is a necessary remedy that will alleviate acute fiscal and battlefield pain. Paging would-be budget hawks: billions of savings holding on line 136.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, November 29, 2010

Senator Mark Kirk says no extra engine for F-35

Senator Mark Kirk appeared on "Morning Joe" this morning and talked about the need to cut spending---including the extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Pratt & Whitney VP Bennett Croswell will answer questions on Twitter on Tuesday 11/30 from 1-1:30pm

On Nov. 30, 2010, Pratt & Whitney will host its second ever executive availability on Twitter tomorrow. Pratt & Whitney Vice President of F135/F119 Engine Programs, Bennett Croswell will be available to F135 fans, followers and media representatives to answer questions and provide F135 engine program updates.

DATE: Tuesday, November 30, 2010
TIME: 1:00-1:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)
LOCATION: Online @ Twitter
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Bennett Croswell, Vice President of F135/F119 Engine Programs will answer questions live on Twitter from @f135engine. Follow @f135engine or the #f135 hashtag on Twitter. Submit questions ahead of time or during the event using the #f135 hashtag on Twitter, an @reply or message to the @f135engine Twitter account, or by posting on our Facebook page.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time to Put Earmarks out to Pasture

A growing tidal wave of reform is poised to sweep the long-standing, lucrative earmark process out to sea. And when it comes to misguided pork barrel spending, the F136 alternative engine truly is the mother of all earmarks, as stated in a recent print advertisement.

Simply put, the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 would not still exist were it not for those who have consistently put parochial interests ahead of common sense. Why pay for a second engine when Pratt & Whitney’s F135 has logged more than 20,000 ground test hours and another 700 in flight? Neither the U.S. Navy nor Marine Corps have room for a second engine on their ships, while most international customers won’t buy nearly enough F-35s to split their buy. So, funding the F136 over the objections of two presidents, two secretaries of defense and top military leaders will have the unintended consequence of forcing an uncompetitive split buy on the U.S. Air Force, a service that has already experienced the logistical challenges of supporting two F-16 engines around the world while no other modern U.S. military aircraft has been saddled with a second powerplant.

Some extra engine proponents say the F136 will save money – eventually. Yet, $2 billion in earmarks have already been allocated and the Pentagon estimates another $2.9 billion will be consumed through FY2015. In fact, a second engine is likely to cost more in the long run when you take into account duplicative training, logistics, spare parts, future upgrades, extra government workers to oversee a redundant program, and the fundamental undermining of potential savings based on economies of scale.

Others argue that a second engine will create jobs. I know we’re talking about pork, but that’s just bull. The same number of airframes will be built regardless of whether there is one or two engines on offer. Continuing to fund the F136 only ensures that some of those jobs will go to Rolls-Royce in the United Kingdom, surely an unintended and unwelcome consequence in a time of dire job insecurity.

As Air Force Gen. John Michael Loh (Ret.) said in an op-ed published by The Hill on November 16, “This is not a head-to-head competition between the current Pratt & Whitney engine and the yet to be developed General Electric engine. It is a procurement directed by Congress to guarantee production for GE.”

President Obama has been consistent in his threat to veto the upcoming defense bill if it includes additional funding for the wasteful, duplicative, job-killing F136. But it shouldn’t have to come to that. If Congress is truly serious about killing earmarks, the F136 is the ideal place to start. Where else can Congress save billions in taxpayer funds without compromising national security in any way? Now that would be a completely different flavor of bacon well worth bringing home for once.

– EagleBlogger

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No Time to Waste...$3 Billion

Before the newly elected 112th Congress is seated, the current 111th still has some unfinished business to complete here in the waning days of 2010. And while these post-election interstitial sessions are pejoratively labeled “lame ducks,” occasionally they can be quite productive. We’d humbly suggest to our federal legislators that putting an end to a $3 billion earmark would be nothing short of a capital idea, so to speak.

As our most recent print advertisement reiterates, a March 2007 Government Accountability Office report suggested that renewed competition to power the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could save 10-12% at best. And with only $20 billion of the $100 billion program truly open to competition (for reasons we’ve explained in earlier postings), any savings would total $2.0-2.4 billion by 2040.

This number, though seemingly impressive in isolation, pales in comparison to the additional $2.9 billion the Pentagon and White House believe will be needed to get the trouble-prone GE/Rolls-Royce F136 extra engine anywhere near the proven performance of Pratt & Whitney’s F135, which has logged roughly 20,000 test hours, powered every JSF flight and transitioned smoothly into production.

No wonder the woman photographed in the ad has such a shocked expression on her face; spending $3 billion to save $2 billion hardly makes sense in the best of times. For Congress to allow such a wasteful earmark to continue in light of current fragile economic conditions would simply be a dereliction of legislative oversight when it’s needed most. The F136’s potential cost to our nation is simply too high to bear, whether you measure it in squandered dollars, wasteful redundancy or lost jobs to the United Kingdom.

As Democrats and Republicans return to Washington, we urge them to read this ad and take note, not just of the arresting visual, but also the growing coalition supporting Pratt & Whitney. Our partners now include Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, American Conservative Union and the Center for Fiscal Accountability. This broad base supports a common message: Regardless of party or ideological affiliation, stop the tragic waste to buy what the taxpayers can’t afford and the warfighter doesn’t want. Together, we can give you three billion good reasons.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart discuss the "wasteful F-35 second engine"

The Rachel Maddow Show
November 11, 2010

MADDOW: I think that you think of it differently. But I think a lot of people who watch your show and who watch cable news think of what we do as not being that different, which sucks for me, because I used to be this sort of mildly amusing person talking, like using humor to tell the story of the wasteful F-35 second engine on that fighter jet.


MADDOW: And now, I`m the person trying to be Jon Stewart and sucking.

STEWART: I love that F-35 that you did.


STEWART: That wasteful engine bit - that killed them. That used to be my bit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WSJ: A New Push To Ban Earmarks

Today's print version of the Wall Sreet Journal includes a great infographic featuring the alternate engine as an example of an earmark. The graphic accompanies a story by Janet Hook on a push by Tea Party aligned new members of Congress who want to ban earmarks.

The full story is here.

Election Over, RIP Earmarks?

Following one of the most contentious and expensive mid-term election campaign cycles in American history, the votes have now been counted, winners declared, and composition of the 112th Congress finally determined. At the top of the winners list must surely sit House Speaker-Elect John Boehner. Yet he will quickly find that increased power comes with a commensurate level of accountability, not least of which from the newcomers in his own caucus, many of who ascribe to a pseudo-libertarian view of pure federalism.

Under such a paradigm, it would seem impossible to defend the proliferation of earmarks, doggedly championed by those with the most to gain, while simultaneously deriding similar requests elsewhere as “pork.” We would humbly submit to the new members of Congress that the unwanted, unaffordable and underperforming F136 extra engine is the most flawed of all earmarks regardless of your district’s location and therefore ripe for the knife.

What began in the early 1990s as the Joint Advanced Strike Technology program evolved into what we now know as the Joint Strike Fighter. Lt. Gen. George Muellner, then assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told Aerospace America in September 1995, “We are going to have a competitive fly-off, with two design families competing against each other and a down-select by the year 2000. With regard to the engine, we told the contractors that they were free to select any engine that was or could be available.” This Contractor Furnished Equipment process led to multiple independent selections by the airframers in favor of the F135 (derived from the F-22-powering F119) over what would become the GE/Rolls-Royce F136.

Those losses stunned GE into a rare moment of candor. "Pratt's been more at the forefront with these things because they have a brand new engine," acknowledged GE spokesman Rick Kennedy, as reported by the Hartford Courant on March 12, 1996. "We've been forced to be a little more creative."

Nearly 15 years later, GE’s creativity has been more noticeable in the halls of power and on the airways, rather than on the test stand, spending a breathtaking $8.2 million in the recent year on lobbying for an engine shunned by the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the Pentagon, while Pratt & Whitney’s F135 is already in service. Yet, the congressional duplicity persists.

As Bloomberg’s Caroline Braum noted in an October 27, 2010 column, “House Minority Leader John Boehner rails against government spending yet votes for a $485 million appropriation for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s alternative engine, which the Pentagon wants to kill. Boehner’s district is near the General Electric plant that’s building the engine.” Her insightful column on earmarks also noted that the F136 was over budget and behind schedule, at least until GE pressured her to amend the lead paragraph, despite a highly publicized September 23rd engine failure on the test stand.

As the fiercely independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said on July 23, 2009, “I believe there was a competition. General Electric lost. It has gone the other way on other occasions. And this is a legislative attempt to achieve by legislation what could not be achieved through competition.” Newly minted members of the 112th Congress looking to obliterate wasteful earmarks: the line forms at the F136.

– EagleBlogger

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Extra Engine & the Deficit

Gail Collins discusses the extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

MADDOW: John Boehner as speaker -- is John Boehner more serious about the deficit than this tax thing would suggest? Is there anything about him as a politician that suggests he does get this as an issue?

COLLINS: There`s one thing, a plane, the F-35, which has two engines. Every time they build one, they build two engines, an extra engine just to put in your pocketbook in case the extra one you lose it somehow.

The Pentagon has been begging forever, please, please can we stop building two engines? They are built near John Boehner`s district. And John Boehner will throw his body on the second engine any time. He`s that serious about cutting the deficit.

MADDOW: I think I get the point.

"New York Times" columnist Gail Collins. It is a pleasure to read your column and it`s even more of a pleasure to have you here.

COLLINS: It`s great to be here.

MADDOW: Thank you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

D.C. Forecast:Hazy with Increased Chance of F136 Spin

The leaves have finally changed color here in autumnal Washington, yet a new season doesn’t necessarily equate to any variety in behavior among backers of the F136 extra engine. Despite losing multiple industry-driven and government-sanctioned competitions to power the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, followed by clear opposition from two consecutive presidential administrations of opposing parties, the extra engine team persists. Like an ill wind, nothing will neutralize their campaign to foist an unwanted, unaffordable and frankly underperforming powerplant on warfighters and taxpayers alike, even when Pratt & Whitney’s F135 has met or exceeded all performance milestones from testing into production.

So, how has GE stayed “in season” despite these and other setbacks? By buying influence for wasteful earmarks. According to an October 20th story by Bloomberg’s Rachel Layne, GE spent roughly $8.2 million since mid-2009 to lobby for their extra engine, including massive print and radio ad campaigns designed to generate grassroots support where none would otherwise be found. In doing so, GE has promised far more than their engine can deliver in horsepower or U.S. jobs.

Increased air pressure of the heated variety is also expected from across the Atlantic, home to F136 partner Rolls-Royce. First the UK government paid a visit to the White House and to Congress to request the continuation of the F136. Then, in light of severe budgetary pressure, their Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) called for a dramatic and surprising departure from the Short Take-Off / Vertical Landing F-35B to the F-35C Carrier Variant. While not in the SDSR, the door is apparently open for the UK to significantly reduce its planned buy of 138 F-35 aircraft. And while these latter developments should be good news for the U.S. Navy with regard to future Anglo-American aircraft carrier interoperability, it will not increase the number of holiday cards postmarked Derby, England.

As Flight International Defense Editor Craig Hoyle noted in his UK defense review analysis posted October 22, “Rolls-Royce will also suffer directly from the [SDSR] decision, with the US Marine Corps and potentially Italy now the only remaining buyers for the STOVL version, which features its lift fan technology. And it makes a continuation of its alternate F136 engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter with General Electric ever more important.”

Regardless of how you might feel about the UK’s parochial support for an engine they are increasingly unlikely to procure or the SDSR’s F-35 guidance, the combined Conservative-Liberal Democratic government at least has demonstrated once again bipartisanship exists and that extremely difficult decisions about national security priorities can be taken decisively. As members of the next Congress prepare to serve, they might pause and remember that fiscal conservatism is more than a bumper sticker pledge. It occasionally necessitates hard choices, ones that may not please K Street lobbyists or their domestic and foreign paymasters, who should embrace the cardinal business rule: the customer is always right. That’s what governing and serving the warfighter should be about, regardless of which way the wind blows.

– EagleBlogger

Friday, October 22, 2010

F135 STOVL Testing: The Heat Is On

The relentless march of the Pratt & Whitney F135 short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant towards government certification in the form of an Initial Service Release (ISR) edged even closer to reality this month with the successful completion of a grueling high temperature margin test.

At Tennessee’s Arnold Engine Development Center, the F135 was intentionally run to generate turbine temperatures in excess of design conditions, while simultaneously powering the turbo-machinery at or above 100 percent. This test, which went far beyond normal operational flight, not only demonstrated the durability of the F135, but also showed it could exceed the thrust specification by a remarkable 34 percent.

The same F135 STOVL engine, designated FX642 and still in excellent condition, will now complete STOVL performance qualification testing at P&W’s West Palm Beach facility, in preparation for ISR certification. Once this occurs later this year, the STOVL F135 will join its sibling, the Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) / Carrier Variant (CV) engine (which earned ISR in February 2010), as the only government-certified F-35 powerplants available now and for the foreseeable future, especially given current challenges facing the F136 extra engine team.

Congressional incumbents and would-be members alike should pause from their relentless last-minute campaigning to recognize that cancellation of F136 funding is the perfect way to demonstrate that fiscal prudence is more than a slogan. Saying no to GE’s latest “moving target” request for yet another billion dollars to waste on the trouble-prone F136 is the right thing to do, especially when the true figure is probably closer to three times that amount. Here are five reasons.

First, killing the F136 would show voters that it really is possible to slow deficit spending in the face of a potentially crippling national debt that certainly wouldn’t be helped by an extra wasted $2.9 billion.

Second, it would validate the Contractor Furnished Equipment competition that saw both Joint Strike Fighter finalists (Lockheed Martin and Boeing) choose the F135 over the F136 with government approval.

Third, it would reward the fifth generation F135 for nearly 20,000 test hours, thanks in part to the engine’s proven F119 heritage on the F-22.

Fourth, the F135 has already made a smooth transition from testing, bolstering future American and allied defense capability with production engines already being installed and powered up in production F-35 airframes. 

Last and certainly not least, eliminating the F136 in favor of the F135 will ensure thousands of vital aerospace jobs remain here in the United States, rather than being exported to the United Kingdom.

Bottom line: this month’s successful high temperature margin test and other milestones demonstrate that only one F-35 propulsion system – Pratt & Whitney’s F135 – can really take the heat.

– EagleBlogger

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Single Source Engines: The Rule, Not the Exception

We at Pratt & Whitney would like to congratulate our colleagues at GE on their recent sole-source award of another 250+ engines to power an additional buy of F/A-18’s.  We’d also like to congratulate them on surpassing 15,000 sole source deliveries of T700 engines to power the Blackhawk and Apache helicopters.  Their sole source engine position on these platforms appears to work well for GE and their customers.

 The fact is, we all believe in competition when it makes sense for the customer and the taxpayer.  Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.  But, GE’s success as a sole-source manufacturer of these engines is but one example that a “two of everything” competition through the life of a program isn’t always a good deal for taxpayers or in the best interest of our warfighters. The reason it’s rarely done quite simply is that it usually doesn’t make sense. 

 Take for example, the extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  When you consider what portion of that program can actually be competed during the life of the program, it amounts to only $20 billion of the $100 billion program that also includes spares and lifecycle costs that aren’t competed.  Using the GAO’s very optimistic numbers, you may be able to save approximately 10-12 percent.  On $20 billion, that’s $2 - $2.4 billion.  Yet to get to competition will require a short term investment of $2.9 billion according to DoD.  Losing money to compete isn’t in anyone’s interest.  And, then there are the logistical complications and the doubling of risks that two engines present. 

 Using contemporary acquisition policies, there are a number of methods to hold contractors accountable and keep them performing effectively and efficiently.  Good examples of this include the highly successful F119 program for the F-22, the F117 for the C-17, or even the two previously cited GE examples.  You have to ask yourself if you already have a proven engine that by all measures is performing well and is years ahead of its potential competitor why you’d spend almost $3 billion for something that costs more than it saves, and the DoD says it doesn’t want or need, at a time when our nation is facing a fiscal crisis and has so many other pressing priorities for scarce budgetary dollars.

 Those in favor of the F136 extra engine argue that engine competition on the F-15 and F-16 programs have saved money and resulted in greater reliability. Yet the evidence for this rose-tinted analysis of the “Great Engine War” remains almost as dubious as revisiting a 1980s procurement model in the midst of a multi-war, economically challenged early 21st century.

 For 60 years, the DoD has selected defense contractors to provide products and services to the government and competition has played a role. In October 2001, DoD selected the Pratt & Whitney powered Lockheed Martin F-35 concept demonstration aircraft as the winner of the advanced tactical fighter competition, and the JSF program entered the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. Since then, the F135 has remained several years ahead of the F136 in development. The F135 has demonstrated excellent performance in flight testing and continues to support flawless vertical landing operations. In addition, as the F135 has evolved from the F119, it will have more than 22 years of experience to rely on. GE, on the other hand, is relying on the power of lobbying and earmarks from Congress to get funding when there is absolutely no advantage to the taxpayer or the U.S. military in having a duplicative engine.

During the last two decades, the DoD has seen Pratt & Whitney design, develop and produce the safest, most reliable fighter engine in the world -- the F119, which is the foundation for the F135. So why should the government continue to spend billions of dollars on an insurance policy for an extra engine? The premiums are far too high a price for the taxpayers and our military men and women to pay when the F135 engine is performing exceptionally well. In the view of Secretary Gates, President Obama and their predecessors, based on the reliable performance of both the F119 and the F135, an extra engine is nothing more than a waste of taxpayer dollars in the interest of corporate welfare.

 The F135 is reliably powering flight test and is in production today, while the F136 continues struggle achieving only a fraction of the hours planned.

 Remember: It’s not competition if the customer doesn’t want your product, the taxpayer can’t afford it, it isn’t as proven as the F135 (which already won the competition to power the JSF), and the basis of any potential cost savings is a mandated, split buy of future engines. 


            – EagleBlogger

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

England: Gates is right about Defense Efficiency

Former Bush Administration Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England weighs in on the extra engine debate in today's Hill newspaper.

England points out that:

DoD studies concluded funding an extra engine will not actually save money, improve reliability or increase safety.

• Secretary Gates has stated forcefully and repeatedly that DoD does not want or need an extra engine and can’t afford it.

• $2.9 billion spent on the extra engine could be better spent on things that keep our troops and our nation safe, such as increasing procurement of F-35s to reduce the unit cost of the airplane itself. This would constitute real F-35 procurement savings.

• The extra engine is still in development with only 400 hours of testing compared to the 19,000 hours accumulated by the primary engine. Thus, there is still high development and financial risk with the second engine.

• Rolls Royce of the U.K. has significant work share content in the second engine.  Hence, funding the second engine will result in the exit of jobs from America.

The full column is here.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Good News from Washington, Even Better from Beyond

Despite recent developments from Capitol Hill that continuing resolutions will be needed before the end of Fiscal Year 2010 to fund the Pentagon and other government agencies in the short term, President Obama stated through the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, September 21 a call for the passage of S. 3454, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2011. The statement read in part, “The Administration appreciates that the [Senate Armed Services] Committee supports the President’s budget request, specifically by not authorizing funding…for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter extra engine…”

The unwavering support from President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates for Pratt & Whitney F135’s engine was reinforced this week by news it has surpassed 19,000 ground test hours and 560 flight test hours. Add those together and you’ll see the F135 is about to exceed 20,000 total test hours, an undeniably noteworthy milestone. Moreover, 394 flights as of September 20th, including a dozen flawless vertical landings, mean yet another landmark is about to be reached.

However, the real significance of all these numbers, though individually and collectively impressive, is they translate into tangible program advancements that benefit the warfighter and taxpayer alike. The short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variant is in the final stages of testing prior to earning initial service release (ISR) certification from the U.S. government later this year. That milestone, combined with earlier ISR certification of the conventional take-off and landing/carrier variant (CTOL/CV) means that F135s powering all three versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will have been fully tested and certified well before the F136 extra engine ever graduates from the test stand.

Yet for all the good news about F135 testing and certification, it’s worth remembering that this is now an engine well into the production phase. Nine production engines have been delivered and in recent days the first production F135 installed in a production F-35 was run to full power.

As the November congressional elections draw ever nearer, taxpayer calls for budgetary prudence and deficit reduction are increasing in intensity. Traditional budget hawk Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) stated earlier this year, “I don’t think any agency of the federal government should be exempt from rooting out wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. And I, frankly, I would agree with it at the Pentagon. There’s got to be wasteful spending there, unnecessary spending there. It all ought to be eliminated.” But his continuing parochial support for the needlessly duplicative F136 extra engine puts him at odds with his own political philosophy and a potential tidal wave of voter anger that might propel him to the speaker’s podium.

Following the fall elections, Congress will need to pick up where the continuing resolutions leave off. And whether the eventually solution for FY 2011 is settled via multiple bills in conference or through an omnibus package, lawmakers have the opportunity to serve the warfighters, heed the citizenry, and save money. Defunding the F136 would accomplish all three goals. Thanks to the continued support of F135 allies across the nation, the best news may still be to come.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sun, Surf and the Smell of Jet Fuel

While many Americans made the most of the warm late August weather by catching a few final rays of summer, Pratt & Whitney used the occasion to indelibly scorch the image and sound of the F135 engine at full throttle into the minds of a select few journalists invited to the company’s test facility in West Palm Beach. Rather than try to describe it myself, I’ll leave it to one of the professional scribes in attendance.

“Stand on the edge of the Everglades with the August sun beating down on your head, the summer humidity wrapping your skin and the thunderous beat of 43,000 pounds of power causing your chest and the very ground beneath you to thrum,” observed Colin Clark of DoD Buzz. “I wagged my jaw a couple of times so the seal on the hearing protection broke and my ears absorbed the awesome roar of the test engine firing about 100 feet away, hung high in the air. That’s what it’s like to experience testing of Pratt & Whitney’s F135 STOVL engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. It was my first military jet engine test and you can take it to the bank that I was impressed with the technology and with the brute power unleashed and then channeled.”

Government certification (known as initial service release) of the STOVL variant F135 engine is expected before the end of the year and will mark a final achievement in a development program that has already logged more than 19,000 hours and irrefutably proven the maturity of the F135 in the process. It will also serve as an emphatic milestone in a noteworthy year that has already included CTOL variant certification, delivery of the final test engines, 10 flawless vertical landings and counting, a smooth transition to production, supersonic flight of the STOVL variant F-35, affordability goals that are being met, and delivery of eight production engines with about a dozen more before the ball drops in Times Square to usher in 2011.

But the West Palm Beach event was more than just a celebration of what’s come before. As Guy Norris wrote in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, “Pratt & Whitney is upping the ante in the ongoing F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine war by revealing the F135 has achieved combat-rated thrust 20% higher than the specification” – an accomplishment demonstrated on both test and production engines.
This level exceeds even the wildest claims from GE and Rolls-Royce, whose F136 engine has logged only about 400 test hours, despite a protracted gestation process that dates back to lost propulsion down-select competitions to the F135 for both the Boeing X-32 and Lockheed Martin X-35 JSF finalists.

Norris added, “Nevertheless, [Pratt & Whitney Military Engines President Warren] Boley says even though Pratt has demonstrated measured thrust with the conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) engine variant well in excess of the F135’s advertised 43,000-lb.-thrust capability, the focus remains on providing a systems-level solution to the F-35 thrust requirement.” In other words, a core that can generate more thrust than the lift fan or nozzle can accommodate will remain an untapped resource for which the customer has not expressed a need.

And because of the F-35’s stealthy characteristics, extra weapons and stores are unlikely to be carried externally and the platform itself will not be prone to the growth seen on fourth generation, non-stealthy F-15s and F-16s. Translation: “F-35 thrust requirements are set at the beginning of the program and are unlikely to change significantly.”
As the lazy, hazy days of summer yield to autumn and intense policy battles on Capitol Hill, images of the F135 exceeding specs and achieving major milestones are anything but a mirage.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tough Choices, Right Reasons

In an era dominated by shallow, partisan politics designed to perpetuate the status quo through the next election and beyond, we applaud the unadorned selflessness and courage demonstrated by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at his August 9th press briefing on acquisition reform.

Shunning the well-worn path of least resistance, Secretary Gates boldly identified a plan to reign in spending on his terms, rather than kick the proverbial can from the Pentagon across the Potomac and up to Capitol Hill. Generating $100 billion in overhead savings in five years won’t come easily, especially in the midst of relatively stagnant job market that drives politicians to be even more parochial than usual. However, the opportunity to restructure the right way, while also empowering the services to redirect savings towards higher priority warfighter needs, proved far too compelling to ignore.

“It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where tough economic times or the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defense,” Gates said. And while newly stated measures garnered the majority of press coverage, it’s important to remember that more established saving priorities, including cancellation of the F136 extra engine, remain vital to long-term success.

“To see these initiatives in context, I think you need to step back and see them as the next move in a process that has been going on for two years,” Gates stated. “It began at the National Defense University with my speech in September of 2008; the far-reaching decisions on programs for fiscal year '10 that were made in April of 2009; the decisions on the alternate engine and C-17s earlier this year; and the Eisenhower Library speech in May.”

Lest anyone miss the F136 reference or doubt the Obama administration’s continued opposition to spending an additional $2.9 billion on an engine the military doesn’t need nor want, Gates added, “Any bill that takes the alternate engine…to the president, I am confident will be vetoed.”

The myriad reasons for canceling the F136 persist. It lost early competitions to power the Lockheed Martin X-35 and Boeing X-32 Joint Strike Fighter finalists. Years later, it remains very immature having accumulated a few hundred system design and demonstration (SDD) hours, while Pratt & Whitney’s F135, benefitting from its F119 predecessor that continues to power the F-22, has accumulated nearly 15,000 SDD hours. Today, the F136 remains in a test cell undergoing incremental development, while the F135 continues to prove itself in rigorous F-35 flight tests and has made a smooth transition to production. Further expenditure on the F136 is unlikely to ever be recouped, compared to the economies of scale that will only help lower F135 unit costs, benefitting all domestic and international F-35 customers and their taxpayers.

Secretary Gates has challenged Americans to “be mindful of the difficult economic and fiscal situation facing our nation” while also conducting two wars and countering numerous terrorist threats and rising powers. Tough times call for smart solutions, yet canceling the F136 remains a relative no-brainer.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, August 23, 2010

Imaginary Numbers: Repetition ≠ Truth

A basic tenet of advertising is that one’s message must be repeated ad nauseam before being retained by the target audience. Yet the monotonous drumbeat of F136 headlines belies the truth, especially when it comes to the imaginative claims about future savings at the expense of the taxpayer and warfighter.

The F136 team’s central argument begins with creative math. They claim that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) forecasts $20 billion in savings through a new competition to power the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Yet the March 24, 2010 report by the GAO cited does no such thing. In fact, the report on page 11 states, “Total saving of about 21 percent in overall lifecycle costs.” And yet even that figure applies only “when comparing actual costs to the program’s baseline estimates,” despite the fact the latter is always higher than the former due to initial program risk.

Next, the F136 team commits a sin of omission, conveniently ignoring the GAO disclaimer “we did not do an in-depth analysis” of the so-called Great Engine War. Even if they had, it would have been nigh on impossible to prove that decreased costs were solely the result of competition rather than program maturity, which includes decreasing risk and economies of scale.

So, from whence does the elusive $20 billion savings figure originate? Simple.GE and its F136 allies estimated the total value of the F-35 propulsion program at $100 billion and multiplied that number by 21 percent. 

Et voilĂ ! 

Yet most of that notional $100 billion can never be competed. The GAO’s analysis could support estimated savings of $2B - $2.5B over 20 years of engine production but why should the U.S. taxpayers pay $2.9B up front in the HOPES of saving $2.5B over the next two decades? There will also be the added cost of dual Component Improvement Programs and mid-life upgrade programs as well as other costs due to inefficiencies inherent in duplicate logistics systems.

Historically, sustainment (personnel, logistics, spare parts, etc) accounts for two-thirds of an engine program. But F135 and F136 sustainment can’t be competed since each engine features proprietary design, components and tooling. Additionally, the federal government will be a major provider of sustainment services. Bottom line: no competitive benefit for roughly $60 billion of the F-35 propulsion program.

Production accounts for the other third of an engine’s lifecycle cost, yet in reality, competition will be limited here too. There are several engine components common to both the F135 and F136. Both the F135 and F136 Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) engines will utilize a common Lift System – half the cost of that variant. And for all CTOL/CV engines, Pratt & Whitney will deliver the augmenter duct/liner and nozzle. All this common hardware takes another $5 billion off the competition table.

Next, remember there won’t even be an F136 for the first five lots, followed by a government-mandated quantity split for lots six, seven and eight. That means no real competition until 2017 and thus another $7 billion subtraction.

Lastly, there is the international partner share of production valued at $8 billion. Will theoretical savings from competition in the international market benefit the US taxpayer? No.

These exceptions bring the actual figure theoretically open for future competition down to about $20 billion. The GAO report went on to state that it is reasonable to save 10.3-12.3%. Therefore $2.0-2.5 billion could be recouped through yet another JSF engine competition.

That’s about a tenth of what the F136 team claims.

But, the Department of Defense has stated numerous times in the past, an additional $2.9 billion will be needed to bring the F136 to competition in 2017, presuming no additional setbacks.

Spend $2.9 billion to save $2.5 billion at most? President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and the Pentagon leadership aren’t the only ones who are saying no to the F136 extra engine. Countless taxpayers agree, especially math teachers. Imagine that.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, July 26, 2010

Influential Taxpayer Organization Joins Call To Eliminate Funding for Extra Engine

Americans for Tax Reform, an influential grassroots taxpayer organization, has joined the call to eliminate funding for the costly and wasteful extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

ATR President Grover Norquist and Center for Fiscal Accountability Executive Director Mattie Corrao wrote to House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks today urging him to, “swiftly reject any funding for the F136 Alternative Engine Program in the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill or the National Defense Authorization Act."

Norquist and Corrao explain that, “While proponents argue that the Alternative Engine Program is necessary to maintain a competitive engine market, there is nothing competitive about an entrenched political subsidy for an unnecessary and unwanted product” and reminding the chairman that “almost all of the Department of Defense’s engine contracts are already single source and there is no evidence that this has negatively effected engine production or national security.”

They also note that the extra engine “has been unwanted for four years by the officials charged with keeping the country safe is one that should be expeditiously removed from all future funding considerations.”

The full letter is here.

A Brief History Lesson

Following GE Vice Chairman Rice’s imaginative opinion about his perceived lack of any past F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine competition, we thought we’d provide a public service and jog his memory, by providing a brief reminder of historical facts.

For major platforms like the F-35, complex systems may be procured via a Contractor-Furnished Equipment (CFE) or Government-Furnished Equipment (GFE) acquisition strategy. Either option provides a full and open competition with government participation. When the GFE process is used, the government solicits competing proposals, chooses a winner, and that system is provided to the prime contractor. Conversely under CFE rules, the prime contractor conducts the competition and selects a winner with government oversight and approval.

This latter option was chosen for the F-35 propulsion system, resulting in proposals submitted by Pratt & Whitney and GE to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, the original JSF contract competitiors. The Pratt & Whitney engine won that competition, and the government approved the process.

 Separately, GE was awarded a contract to begin developing the F136 extra engine. But it has since lost the support of two consecutive presidential administrations, prompting the Defense Department to urge Congress to discontinue F136 funding as the Pratt & Whitney F135 has proven itself at every stage of the development process and now into production.

 Yet, GE and their congressional allies still want to “re-compete” what they failed to win through the transparent down-select process described above. The fact that the F135 is meeting the requirements of the program and has successfully powered the F-35 through flight test stands in stark contrast to GE’s doomsday scenario that an extra engine is needed in case of a devastating, but heretofore completely mythical, fleet-wide grounding issue. But, if such occurrences were really a potentiality, wouldn’t the White House and Pentagon – charged with defending our nation – ask for such a redundancy? And for that matter, why not also mandate duplication in avionics, landing gear and other flight-critical systems?

The answer, as we’ve stated many times before, is that the best engine already won the competition, and has proven itself beyond a shadow of a doubt, through the most rigorous test program to date. As U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said in March 2010, “We are not in the 1980s any longer, where high-performance engines had suspect reliability.”

But despite all the rhetoric in Washington and elsewhere on this issue, this debate really isn’t about “us versus them.” Admittedly, the stakes are high for both engine teams, but they are far more critical for warfighters (who deserve only the best) and taxpayers (who crave fiscal restraint, not politics as usual).

Speaking at an event sponsored by The Hill newspaper on June 23, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen encapsulated the overlapping interest of these two publics when he frankly stated, “The biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt.” He went on to admit that while incentivizing savings is difficult, it has been done over time. If not now, after the competition has already been won, then when?

School may be out, but GE Vice Chairman Rice might want to consider a summer class or two. We recommend History of JSF Procurement 101.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Danger of Hubris

Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ frank comment on June 16 to the Senate Appropriations Committee that, “We think that the current engine GE is offering… probably does not meet the performance standards that are required, and the taxpayer would be required to pay for any enhancement that would bring it up to the performance standards that we require” appears to have so exacerbated the extra engine team that one can argue a delicate line has not just been crossed, but obliterated.

We’re talking about the occasionally tense, but absolutely vital relationship between the defense industry and the customers we serve. Although disagreements often surface through the natural course of procurement, recent actions by the F136 team to undermine President Obama, Secretary Gates and senior military leaders are arguably unprecedented in their audacity and severity.

A combative GE Vice Chairman John Rice brazenly contradicted Gates and the Pentagon’s assessment of the F136. From performance to cost, Rice painted a rose-tinted picture at complete variance to what their customer has stated time and time again. And while reality may sometimes be influenced by one’s point of view, what happened to the basic business principle of “The customer is always right?”

Most bizarrely, John Rice claimed that GE “has never been given an opportunity to compete” for the F-35 primary engine contract, conveniently forgetting that his engine was evaluated by Joint Strike Fighter airframe finalists Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both of whom ultimately chose Pratt & Whitney’s F135 for all Concept Demonstration Aircraft flights. So now Rice isn’t just asking for a mulligan to make up for a bad shot, but an entire new round of 18 holes?

According to Paul Bedard of U.S. News, Secretary Gates tops the list as President Obama’s best cabinet secretary and is widely recognized as one of the most effective Pentagon chiefs ever, now balancing the demands of two wars while simultaneously trying to reform how the DoD does business. Yet despite Gates’ unquestionable competence, selfless service and reasoned analysis under two presidents of opposing parties, GE still believes its interests, already bolstered by near-monopolistic positions in commercial and military aviation propulsion, are somehow of paramount importance and should therefore trump those of increasingly burdened taxpayers and warfighters.

Not surprisingly, GE’s unprecedented display of hubris was promptly characterized as an “open challenge” by The Hill’s Roxana Tiron and “an extraordinary move” by Megan Scully of Congress Daily. Meanwhile, recent high profile events have clearly demonstrated the risks associated with disrespecting the federal government’s authority over military affairs. Pratt & Whitney has learned from our historical missteps decades ago. We humbly recommend the F136 team do the same.


            – EagleBlogger

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Never Too Much of a Good Thing

In As You Like It, William Shakespeare penned the question, “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” More than 400 years later, we can answer emphatically no, you can never have too much, especially when it comes to good news. As the tempo of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter test flights increased in June, so has the frequency of major milestones achieved. In fact, we can count at least three during the last two weeks.

First, the U.S. Navy F-35C carrier variant made its inaugural flight earlier this month, taking off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. Powered by a production configuration F135, the F-35C logged about an hour of flight time. The F135 Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) / Carrier Variant (CV) engine received federal government Initial Service Release certification in February, indicating that the engine meets all requirements for safety, reliability, durability and performance, and is therefore cleared for use in the field.

Second, Pratt & Whitney recently celebrated the first installation of a production F135 into a production F-35 aircraft. This marks an important step as this will be the first F-35 aircraft powered by an F135 engine that is destined for our U.S. military.

Last but certainly not least, the F-35B short takeoff, vertical land (STOVL) aircraft achieved supersonic flight for the first time, climbing to 30,000 feet near Naval Air Station Patuxent River and then reaching Mach 1.07. Future tests will eventually expand its flight envelope to its Mach 1.6 maximum. However, it is already clear that the F-35B’s unique combination of short take-off/vertical landing capabilities and supersonic performance will provide the U.S. Marine Corps, United Kingdom and Italy with unprecedented performance and flexibility to operate from smaller ships or austere bases worldwide.

The sum of these milestones is further undeniable proof that the Pratt & Whitney F135 is performing exceptionally well; first in development testing and validation, followed by full production and sustainment. Yet proponents of the F136 extra engine still wage a misleading campaign with brazen disregard to our warfighters, Secretary of Defense, two Presidents and the taxpayers, to try to encourage Congress to continue earmarking funds for this unwanted, unneeded, unaffordable piece of hardware.

In testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 16, – Defense, Secretary Robert Gates fired back by stating, “We have reached a critical point in this debate where spending more money on a second engine for the JSF is unnecessary, wasteful and simply diverts precious modernization funds from other more pressing priorities. Accordingly, should the Congress add more funds to continue this unneeded program, I will continue to strongly recommend that the president veto such legislation.”

Clarity of language, backed by singular intent, is no less important now than in Shakespeare’s time, especially when the stakes are so high. And while the Bard of Avon might not have posed his question in the context of a fifth generation fighter propulsion system, we won’t shy away from celebrating success at every turn. Production of the ISR-certified F135 is more than our job, it’s an integral part of serving American and allied forces today and in the decades to come. We’ll leave the drama to others.

– EagleBlogger

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth: The Myth of F136-Style Competition

Supporters of the F136 extra engine have hijacked a convenient, but ultimately misleading notion to breathe life into a patient declared dead on arrival by two presidents, the Pentagon and both Joint Strike Fighter airframer finalists (Lockheed Martin and Boeing). “Competition” makes a great bumper sticker, but as we’ve explained in the past, the facts often point in a different direction.

To illustrate our point, let’s revisit the U.S. Government Accountability Office report entitled “Analysis of Costs for the Joint Strike Fighter Engine Program” (March 22, 2007). F136 supporters have elevated this document to near mythical status, yet ironically, their interpretation based on selective reading is probably the source of many of today’s “competition myths.”

For example, while the GAO admitted the potential for some cost savings based on future F136 funding, it then stated on pages 1-2, “These results are dependent on how the government decides to run the competition, the number of aircraft that are ultimately purchased, and the exact ratio of engines awarded to each contractor.” So, in order to achieve savings, beyond those already delivered by Pratt & Whitney and others still to come based solely on F135 maturity, the U.S. government would have to rig a future competition to create enough F136 sales to recoup their investment.

Continuation of the F136 would certainly help “spread the wealth” (at least at the very top of the supply chain), yet the GAO advisory groups note such a diversification strategy was “made independent of the services’ ability to fund the program–meaning overall affordability should be taken into consideration.” However, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have consistently stated they lack the inclination, budget and physical space to support two F-35 engines. International customers are unlikely to divide their orders either. Therefore, a forced 50/50 split buy “competition” would rest primarily on the shoulders of the U.S. Air Force, dramatically and disproportionately increasing its training and logistical costs, as well as further complicating overseas deployments based on past F-15 and F-16 experience. The Air Force Chief, General Norton Schwartz has repeatedly said this is something he does not want forced upon his service.

Contrast this sub-optimal scenario with the clear advantages of retaining just one F-35 propulsion supplier. The GAO notes on page 6 of the report, “In the event that Pratt & Whitney is made the sole-source engine provider, future configuration changes to the aircraft and common components could be optimized for the F135 engine, instead of potentially compromised design solutions or additional costs needed to support both F135 and F136.” So, while the F136 team continues to divert attention from their own late, underperforming engine languishing on a test bed, the GAO has already recognized that future funds will be best spent on continuous improvements to the F135 already in production.

As the fight continues on Capitol Hill and in the court of public opinion, we maintain that the benefits of JSF engine competition have already been derived in the form of the F135, itself an evolution of the trusted and proven, F-22 powering F119. Bottom line: the best engine has already won, it continues to power every F-35 in flight, and it will continue to cost less as quantities rise. Diverting vital and scarce public funds to the F136 in the name of competition threatens to betray taxpayers and warfighters alike – and that is perhaps the most inconvenient truth of all.

– EagleBlogger

Friday, June 4, 2010

CNN Contributor: GOP votes for spending boondoggle

CNN Contributor John Avlon has a piece out that's worth a read.

New York (CNN) -- In a time of voter anger at unsustainable government spending and Washington hypocrisy, here's a story that should get your blood up.

Last week, the House of Representatives considered eliminating a nearly half-billion dollar earmark that was snuck into a defense authorization bill. But members of both parties voted to keep the corporate pork in the bill -- despite a supposed moratorium on earmarks and despite that the Pentagon has repeatedly said it doesn't want the money.

Only in Washington would bureaucracy be force-fed a project it doesn't want or need.

But so far, we haven't seen this contempt for taxpayer dollars make its way to protest signs or talk radio driven talking points. That's because President Obama opposes the earmark and the Republican congressional leadership voted for it.

This doesn't fit neatly into the hyperpartisan narrative of screaming about socialism -- in which Republicans bewail overspending by Democrats -- but it's a perfect illustration of how deep the dysfunction is in Washington.

Full story is here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union Supports Cancellation of Alternate Engine

In a letter to House members, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers offered its support for the Larson amendment to eliminate funding for the alternate engine:

“The Pingree Larson amendment addresses this issue by withholding funding for the alternative engine unless the Defense Department finds that the extra engine would reduce the costs of the F-35 program, improve the operational readiness of the program, and would not result in fewer aircraft being purchased. The IAM strongly supports…the Pingree Larson and asks that you vote for these amendments." click here for .pdf copy

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

AMVETS Opposes Alternate Engine

Congressman Murphy,

Over the last few years, both the Bush and Obama Administrations have sought to remove funding for the wasteful F35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine program. As a leader in veterans’ advocacy for more than 65 years, AMVETS supports this year’s latest efforts to kill funding for the alternate engine, diverting funds to directly support the brave men and women tasked with fighting on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The alternate engine for the Pentagon’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program is a perfect example of a program that wastes funding desperately needed by our military men and women serving in harm’s way. Billions have already been spent on a wasteful extra engine, even though the current engine is already in production and performing well.

Our nation’s top military minds have consistently voiced their opposition to the alternate engine, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and the service chiefs for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, the services set to receive the Joint Strike Fighter.

Sadly, even though the Pentagon insists it will never field the new engine, Congressional leaders have continued to approve funding for the program each year. Supporters say the alternate engine would save money, but independent studies commissioned by Congress clearly refute this assertion.

This money must be spent on the needs of our soldiers and veterans today—not five or more years down the road. Congress has earmarked more than one billion dollars on this project since President Bush first tried to cancel it, and taxpayers will foot the bill for another $2.9 billion just to complete development and testing on the extra engine; never mind production costs.

That same amount of money could pay the health care costs of every single Iraq and Afghanistan veteran this year. The $465 million spent last year could have been used for mine resistant vehicles and helicopters that are badly needed by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead was wasted on an engine our military leaders have repeatedly said they don’t want or need.

As a fellow veteran, AMVETS hopes you will join us in proudly supporting the amendment to divert much of the wasteful alternate engine funding to the National Guard & Reserve Equipment Account, which faces a $42.5 billion equipment shortage in 2010. It’s time we make a commitment to giving our brave American troops what they need today.


Raymond C. Kelley
AMVETS National Legislative Director

Letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the alternate engine

Dear Representative Larson:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. This program is one of the Defense Department's (DOD) most important, largest and costliest acquisition programs. The JSF budget request reflects DOD's careful, analytical judgment of the best way proceed with a program that is the backbone of future tactical aircraft inventory for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and international partners.

It is true that the DOD identified problems with this program in 2009. Therefore, earlier this year, we took aggressive action to restructure and manage the program. These actions included providing additional funding, replacing the program manager, withholding $614 million in contractor award fees and reducing the number of aircraft purchased in FY11 from 48 to 42. It is DOD's judgment that further reduction of the number of aircraft will increase cost, delay the program and negatively impact our international partners. DOD is confident that the JSF restructuring properly balances production rate with other relevant factors.

Further, I firmly believe that the interests of the taxpayers, our military, and the JSF program are best served by not pursuing an extra engine. Despite the continued opposition by the DOD under two Administrations, Congress has provided $1.3 billion in unrequested additional funding for continued development of this program. We have reached a critical point in this debate where spending more money on an extra engine simply makes no sense and diverts limited modernization funds from more pressing DOD priorities.

DOD's independent Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) estimates that an additional $2.9 billion would be required to take an alternate engine, the F136, to competitive procurement in FY17. While the $2.9 billion cost is real and certain, the benefits of a second engine are not. CAPE has concluded that a second engine might provide savings ifboth engine vendors respond to competitive pressures and drive prices lower and the second engine supplier matches the F135's vendor prices for the duration of the competition. Some international partners are almost certain to only buy the F136 engine made by the General Electric (GE) and Rolls Royce team, and the Navy has stated they will only buy one engine to avoid having to maintain two different engines aboard a ship. While DOD favors competition where possible, in this case there would not be a true competition between the engine vendors, with accompanying reductions in cost. Therefore, it is DOD's strong judgment that these real costs outweigh the theoretical benefit.

In addition, we believe the new GE proposal for the F 136 engine is based on overly optimistic assumptions. This proposal offers a fixed price for the existing engine, but not necessarily the engine that meets DOD specifications. If development problems on this immature design require design or other changes, DoD would be responsible for funding those changes. The proposal also calls for a large number of engines being produced while testing is ongoing, with that risk borne by DOD. The F136 engine is also far less mature than the F 135 engine, with only 200 hours of testing compared to the more than 13,000 hours for the F135 engine. This proposal would simply delay the current F135 engine's progress so the F136 engine could play catch up.

A single engine strategy is not new and does not create unacceptable levels of risk. Contrary to some assertions, the use of a single engine production source has seen a successful strategy for critical tactical fighter programs such as the F-22 and F-18. Further, since the F135 engine is derived from the successful F119 engine program for the F-22, the risk of a fundamental design flaw or other circumstance that would ground the fleet is significantly reduced and manageable.

Given the many pressing needs facing our military and the fiscal challenges facing our country, we cannot afford a business as usual approach to the defense budget. Tough choices must be made -by both the department and Congress -to ensure that current and future military capabilities can be sustained over time. This means programs and initiatives of marginal or no benefit -like the F136 engine -are unaffordable luxuries.

Accordingly, as I have stated repeatedly, I will strongly recommend that the President veto any legislation that contains funding for an extra JSF and unneeded engine.


Robert M. Gates

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ABC News: Pentagon Chokes On Pork

The Fallacy of Trying to Have Cake and Eat it Too

You would think that an emphatic, “Thanks, but no thanks” from two consecutive presidents representing both main political parties and the studiously principled secretary of defense they share would deter business-as-usual Capitol Hill posturing and runaway spending. Yet, like a “middle-of dinner telemarketer,” the team pushing the F136 extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and their Congressional allies just can’t take no for an answer, even in a year when the American public has made it abundantly clear that wasteful and unnecessary projects and programs are not worth causing greater damage to the American economy while also handicapping our warfighters in their time of greatest need.

            As Defense Secretary Gates said during a May 20th press conference, “The Bush administration opposed this engine. The Obama administration opposes it. We have recommended for several years now against funding this engine, considering it a waste of money. And to argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste to protect the billion and a half (dollars) that we believe already has been wasted, frankly, I don't track the logic.”

            But what about competition, the extra engine team pleads? After all, “monopoly is not a game.” The competition to power the F-35 took place years ago, and Joint Strike Fighter prime contractor finalists Lockheed Martin and Boeing each chose Pratt & Whitney’s F135 over the F136 to power their concept demonstrators.

Ironically, the same team that lost the competition to power the F-35, has upped the rhetoric on “monopoly” despite the monopolistic position they enjoy on the 14,000 engines powering the entire Blackhawk and Apache helicopter fleets, the more than 4,000 engine monopoly they have on the entire F/A-18 fighter jet fleet, and even the ubiquitous Boeing 737 airliner (just to name a few). Apparently, living in a glass house really doesn’t deter the casting of stones.

            Along the way, the extra engine team has pedaled multiple unsolicited so-called “fixed price” proposals claiming notional savings as a result. But, ever the wary consumer, the Department of Defense, led by Secretary Gates, isn’t buying. “The proposal does provide a fixed price, but not for the engine we need,” Gates said. “The proposed engine is based on the design they currently have on the test stand, which we are deeply concerned may not meet the performance needs of the Joint Strike Fighter. Any cost to take the design to required JSF performance levels would presumably be paid by taxpayers.”

            And let’s remember that the F136 is years behind the F135. Test hours stand at merely 200 for the F136 compared to more than 17,500 for the F135. The F135 has powered every JSF to date, including a flawless vertical landing, has received government certification, and has made the transition from development to production, having delivered the first four F135 engines that will power the first F-35 aircraft for the U.S. military.

            Finally, the extra engine team’s vision of competition is actually built on the perverse notion of a “guaranteed” split buy. To quote Secretary Gates one more time from May 20, “As I've said before, only in Washington does a proposal where everybody wins get considered a competition, where everybody is guaranteed a piece of the action at the end.”

            The problem isn’t competition. First, it is the F136 team’s stubborn denial of multiple decisions by prime contractors years ago, two presidential administrations since then, and even the Senate as recently as 2009. Second, it’s their engine, which is years behind the proven F135 and might not meet DoD requirements. Lastly, it is the prospect of a rigged split buy that’s more consistent with socialist central planning than our meritocratic system where warfighters only get the best solutions the market can engineer, produce and support.

            Rather than swallow the bitter pill summed up by these dispassionate facts, the F136 team enjoys their own monopolies, while at the same time ratcheting up the political posturing and scare tactics to save the unwanted, underperforming and untenable extra engine. Guess they think they can have their “competition” cake and eat it too, while the American taxpayers and warfighters continue to foot the bill.


– EagleBlogger

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The FACTS on the extra engine for Joint Strike Fighter

FACT: The DoD says it will cost an additional $2.9B to finish the F136 engine.

In a press conference on May 20, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “We do believe that the full-up costs for us are about $2.9 billion. This department has a long and unhappy experience with overly optimistic contractor estimates.” Spending $2.9B in the hopes of saving $1B is not a responsible use of taxpayers’ dollars. The fact is, the extra engine team just keeps asking for (and receiving) billions of dollars despite having made very little progress. In 2008, the extra engine team said they only needed another $1B to finish development. Two years (and $1B later) the extra engine team is STILL saying they only need an additional $1B to complete development.

FACT: There was already a competition to power the F-35.

Competition for the JSF engine happened at the contractor level with all three JSF competitors selecting the P&W engine. This process of selecting subsystems, including the engine, as part of the overall weapon system, is standard during concept demonstration. Last year Senator Lieberman said: “There was a competition to build the engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. General Electric, in its proposal, lost that competition. Pratt & Whitney won that competition. Now, by way of legislation, the proponents of the second engine for this plane are trying to achieve, by legislation, what they could not achieve by competition.” GE has several military engine monopolies including the F-18, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters and the A-10 and they are not pushing an extra engine for those aircraft. GE is only in favor of competition when they lose.

FACT: The manufacturer of the extra engine is the largest supplier of military engines in the world and has several military engine monopolies.

GE is the largest military engine company in the world, producing 70% of U.S. military engines and has extensive military and commercial engine programs including sole-source contracts for more than 14,000 T700 engines for the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters and more than 4,000 F404 engines for the F-18. The extra engine manufacturer isn’t advocating for extra engines for those aircraft. The customer (DoD) has stated repeatedly that it does not want the extra engine, especially if the taxpayers are footing the bill.

FACT: Terminating the extra engine will save U.S. jobs and will not harm the U.S. industrial base.

U.K. based Rolls Royce is developing and manufacturing 40 percent of the extra engine, and a large portion of the Rolls Royce content will result in U.K., not U.S. jobs. In addition, the same number of engines will be built, regardless of manufacturer. A 2007 Institute of Defense Analysis study examined the top extra engine component suppliers and concluded that it is "unlikely that any supplier would exit the domestic industrial base because of F-136 termination".

FACT: Having an extra engine will cost more money, not save money.

The DoD has repeatedly stated that the notional cost savings that would result from further engine competition for the F-35 are based on unrealistic assumptions that they cannot accept. As Secretary Gates put it, “To argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste to protect the billion and a half (dollars) that we believe already has been wasted, frankly, I don't track the logic.” The extra engine team claims that the F-35 engine program is worth $100B and that having a competing engine will generate savings. This is incorrect on both counts. First, a GAO report released in March 2010, reports that the engine program is closer to $60B. Second, the upfront cost to design and develop the extra engine will outweigh any potential savings because taxpayers must pay the full cost to develop both engines and foot the bill for two sets of parts, two production and maintenance lines, two technology advancement programs and duplicative personnel and training.

FACT: The firm fixed price offer put forward by the F-35 extra engine team is unrealistic.

Secretary Gates said on May 20, “With respect to the proposal for the extra engine, we think the proposal is based on unrealistic cost estimates. The proposal does provide a fixed price, but not for the engine we need.”

FACT: Funding of the extra engine has and will continue to reduce the number of JSF aircraft the U.S. can afford to buy, will take many away from other, more pressing DoD needs, and will have a negative impact on the warfighter.

When Congress continues to fund the extra engine against the judgment of the President and the DoD, the funding must come from somewhere else. In the past, it has come at the expense of the overall F-35 program and has already cost the JSF program four aircraft--a negative and direct impact on national security. In Congressional testimony, senior military leaders have testified that continued funding would come at the expense of 50-80 additional aircraft, aircraft our military needs. On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “We will strongly resist efforts to impose programs and changes on the department that the military does not want, cannot afford, and that takes dollars from programs and endeavors the military services do need.”

FACT: An extra engine for the JSF increases operational complexity and risk.

Single engine sources are the norm for military aircraft. No other military aircraft developed in the past three decades has been procured with multiple engine suppliers. In testimony in February Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz said, “The reality is that the F-22 and the F-18E/F are single engine airplanes. And, you know, there’s no dispute about that, and it’s because we collectively in the defense community, have become comfortable with the reliability and so on of those respective engines, one of which is a predecessor to the 135.” A case in point is the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine, powering the F-22, which is the safest, most successful fighter engine ever. The reliability of the F119 continues to set records without an extra engine. Inserting an extra engine into a program slows cost and learning curves and present operational risk and challenges to military men and women who will operate and maintain them. Proponents of the extra engine claim that a sole-source engine provider is risky. However, they are the sol-source engine provider on numerous military platforms and have never suggested those platforms need an extra engine.

FACT: The DoD is concerned about the performance of the extra engine program

On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “The proposed engine is based on the design they currently have on the test stand, which we are deeply concerned may not meet the performance needs of the Joint Strike Fighter.” The extra engine, which has yet to power an F-35 in flight, has only accumulated approximately 200 hours in 17 months of testing and has encountered significant technical difficulties. By contrast the F135 has logged more than 17,500 hours, has achieved government certification, has powered vertical flight operations, has delivered the last test engine and has transitioned to F135 production, already having delivered the first four production F135s for use by the warfighter.

FACT: The P&W engine is serving the JSF needs now and into the future and the DoD is concerned about the performance of the extra engine.

On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “The engine is far less mature. The proposed engine is still in development, has about 200 hours of testing compared to 13,000 for the F-135. The proposed engine is based on the design they currently have on the test stand, which we are deeply concerned may not meet the performance needs of the Joint Strike Fighter. Any cost to take the design to required JSF performance levels would presumably be paid by taxpayers.” By contrast, the F135 has logged more than 17,500 test hours, has achieved government certification, has powered vertical flight operations, has delivered the last test engine and has delivered the first four production F135s.

FACT: The DoD does not want or need the extra engine for the JSF.

Secretary Gates thinks funding the extra engine is wasteful and unnecessary. So does President George W. Bush, President Obama, 59 Republican and Democratic Senators, the Chiefs of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and many more.

FACT: The extra engine is at least 5 years behind the F135, and has delayed fielding of F-35 aircraft.

The extra engine is 5-7 years behind in development, has yet to power a plane in flight and has logged only a small fraction of the hours expected for this point in their test program. In approximately 17 months of testing, the extra engine has accumulated around 200 hours compared to the more than 2,300 hours that the Pratt & Whitney F135 had accumulated at the same 17-month point. Last year, the extra engine was paid for by delaying the purchase of multiple JSF test aircraft.

FACT: Procuring the F136 will delay Air National Guard deliveries.

The remaining $2.9B needed to complete the extra engine is not included in the defense budget, and must be taken from elsewhere the DoD. Money will have to be taken away from a defense program the military needs in order to fund a program they don’t need. The Air Force and the Air National Guard needs to replace its aging fleet of fighters, bombers and tankers, and wasting $2.9B on an extra engine when their fleet modernizations are underfunded makes no sense. Whether the delay is in JSF deliveries or some other impact to fleet modernization the impact to the Air National Guard will be negative.

FACT: The international JSF partners do not want to fund an extra engine.

The international partners have stated they do not want an extra engine if it will have a negative impact on the program. Buying two engines for the JSF increases the cost to the overall program limits the international partners’ on the quantity of aircraft they can afford, and delays deliveries. Extra engine supporters claim that the original the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the International Partners assured them that they would have an engine choice. In fact, the memorandum simply stated that if there were two engines, the partners could choose.

FACT: A vote for the extra engine is Washington “business as usual".

On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “Let me be clear. I believe the defense budget process should no longer be characterized by business as usual within this building or outside of it….Accordingly, as I have stated repeatedly, should the Congress insist on adding funding for a costly and unnecessary JSF extra engine or direct changes that seriously disrupt the JSF program, or impose additional C-17 aircraft, I will strongly recommend that the president veto such legislation.” Canceling funding for the extra engine has strong bi-partisan support. The Senate sent a loud message last year when a bipartisan group of 59 Senators voted for cancellation. Funding was slipped back in during conference by certain House conferees, voted against it. However, the funding was slipped back in during conference by certain House conferees