Monday, November 29, 2010
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
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.”
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
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.
Monday, November 15, 2010
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
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.
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.
Friday, November 5, 2010
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
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.