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.

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