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.