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