Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More "Four-ward" Progress

In today’s hyperactive 24/7 media landscape, good news rarely gets the same level of attention as bad news, especially when conflict can be added to the mix. Nevertheless, Pratt & Whitney’s F135 continues to go from strength to strength. Most recently, the company announced the mid-May award of a $1.13 billion Department of Defense contract for F135 production engines to power the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The $1.13 billion award, which follows initial selection in July 2010, covers low-rate initial production of the fourth lot of F135 engines, plus spare parts, sustainment and delivery. LRIP 4 will comprise 18 conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) and 19 short takeoff/vertical landing engines for the United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands. And in an era when F-35 costs have attracted widespread attention, it is well worth noting that the LRIP 4 contract will provide a 15 percent savings on the CTOL/CV variant compared to LRIP 3.

These savings, along with others still to come, are possible because the F135 continues to mature as production rates increase. Yet, there are still some members of Congress on the House Armed Services Committee and elsewhere who support resurrecting the defunded and cancelled F136 extra engine through a deceptively clever self-funding scheme that (like most freebie offers) is actually too good to be true.

“This comes despite the fact that the Defense Department has been saying for five years that the replacement engine wasn't wanted or needed,” noted the Sheboygan Press in a May 18 editorial. “Although GE and Rolls-Royce will be spending their own money on the engine in the near future, we can't help but wonder how soon they will be back in front of the Armed Services panel asking for tax dollars to keep the alternative engine program alive.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on May 20, Pratt & Whitney President David Hess debunked a number of misunderstandings and misrepresentations about the F135, which has powered all 900+ F-35 flights, including 100 vertical landings. Such strong performance, combined with staunch opposition from Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, completely obviates the need to waste an additional $3 billion in vital taxpayer funds for a second engine that is years behind the F135 and would necessitate the doubling of training, logistics and maintenance costs without adding any additional capability.

First Hess notes, “Rep. [Buck] McKeon refers to a $3.5 billion cost overrun but does not explain that most of these costs are due to government-directed changes to the original requirements and schedule. Much of the remaining costs are associated with the unique challenges of the short takeoff, vertical landing F-35 variant. Having an extra engine would not have made any difference but would simply have added cost.”

Moreover, Hess adds, “Rep. McKeon incorrectly states that the cost of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine powering the F-35 ‘has risen by almost 500% in the past three years.’ The cost of our engine has actually decreased by more than 22% over that period.”

Those facts, on top of an additional 15 percent savings to come on LRIP 4 engines, are merely sensational, not sensationalist. Yet we’d still shout, “Stop the presses.”

– EagleBlogger

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Return of the Zombie Earmark?

Like a bad B-grade horror movie monster, the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 extra engine is threatening to rise from its grave. No matter that Congress eliminated all FY2011 funding just weeks ago, marking the culmination of years of stoic determination expressed by consecutive Republican and Democratic presidents, as well as their respective secretaries of defense.

Instead, the F136’s dwindling but vocal advocates are now trying to hold the entire F-35 program hostage by arm-twisting the House Armed Services Committee. Still smarting from the extra engine’s defunding and subsequent termination by the Department of Defense, its backers have conceived a seemingly innocuous plan to “self-fund” the remaining development. Yet there is no free lunch for the American taxpayer here, since any military engine testing will require access to government-owned property and facilities, not to mention ongoing government oversight. And all that costs money.

Moreover, they’ve devised a "scorched earth" tactic that would withhold performance improvement funds for the proven Pratt & Whitney F135 unless their developmental engine is brought back to life. Never mind the fact that the F135 meets all current and anticipated thrust requirements, they say, let alone the prospect of further duplication and senseless waste at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty and more pressing defense priorities.

Even before these latest parliamentary gimmicks were fully exposed, the Boston Globe remarked in a May 1 editorial, "It’s the height of corporate entitlement for a defense contractor to keep trying to sell the Pentagon a fighter engine that the Pentagon manifestly doesn’t want."

As news about the HASC maneuver surfaced, Paul Bedard of U.S. News reported in a May 4 article that fiscal conservatives might face “an embarrassing second vote on the funding for the engine." Bedard went on to quote a conservative House adviser who said, "It’s unbelievable they could be that thick-headed. With the deficit at $1.7 trillion this year, my GOP has to get serious."

GE had told the government it needed $450 million annually in FY 2011 and 2012 in order to compete in 2015. Now that GE is faced with spending their own cash, they claim they’ll do it for $100 million and compete in 2016. So, what was the other $350 million a year for and who will fund the additional $3 billion really needed to get the F136 to competition?

Such intransigence stands in stark contrast not only to continued strong performance by the F135 in more than 800 F-35 test flights, including roughly 90 flawless vertical landings for the STOVL F-35B, but also in deliveries. All 20 engines from low rate initial production (LRIP) lots 1 and 2 have now been delivered, along with the first LRIP 3 engine in early May. F135 engines in LRIP 3 meet established affordability targets and include engine modifications and improvements based on findings from the F-35 flight test program. Moreover, that engine’s close relative, the Pratt & Whitney JSF119, is literally now part of aviation history, following its recent installation at the Smithsonian Institution at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Here’s hoping majorities in both houses of Congress charged with the twin burdens of austere fiscal responsibility and judicious defense spending will continue to beat back the extra engine. We’ve said it before, but feel compelled to say it again: no means no. Even an addlebrained zombie should understand that much.

– EagleBlogger

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Progress Versus Promises

Avid readers of this blog and know that the Pratt & Whitney F135 is a direct descendent of the F119 that powers the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. Now, the F119 has successfully reached its first hot section full-life capability of 4,325 total accumulated cycles during a recent test at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. This achievement was made possible through an accelerated engine maturity program and the resulting overhaul will provide additional insight into the long-term performance of this engine, as well as the F135.

This accelerated program, called “Compass Vector,” is a Pratt & Whitney and U.S. Air Force partnership to fly certain engines twice the normal rate under various environmental conditions. The resulting data highlights new sustainment opportunities that will maximize readiness for the world’s most advanced operational fighter jet.

Meanwhile, production numbers for the F119 and F135 continue to climb at 360 and 21, respectively. The F135’s scorecard now stands at more than 828 flights, 1,200 flight hours and 86 flawless vertical landings.

Fortunately, the Department of Defense has now terminated the F136 extra engine that never flew, wasn’t wanted by two consecutive presidential administrations, and wouldn’t be used by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and other initial F-35 customers. In stark contrast to attempts by others to override the express wishes of the customer and taxpayer, Pratt & Whitney’s latest ad pays tribute to those House members (later joined by the Senate), who rejected earmark-laden, pork barrel politics in favor of fiscal responsibility when it’s needed most.

Implausibly, GE claimed until the very end that their still-developmental F136 engine could somehow outperform the Pratt & Whitney F135 that has powered every F-35 flight as above. But don’t take our word for it; check out the latest reasoned opinion delivered by defense industry sage Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute.

We commend Congress and Secretary Robert Gates for their courageous decisions to defund and then terminate the F136. Whether it’s on the flight line or Capitol Hill, actions continue to speak louder than words.

– EagleBlogger

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Truth: An Unfortunate Casualty of the GE Ad War?

Defense industry sage Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute recently followed up a article critical of the F136 extra engine with another entry on his own site, this time chastising GE for their increasingly desperate advertising tactics.

Thompson applies his keen eye to GE’s misleading portrayal in a recent print ad about a single Government Accountability Office report that purports to suggest “total savings of about 21 percent in overall life.” In fact, he states, “The 21 percent savings are unsubstantiated claims about an earlier program that GAO acknowledges it has not analyzed in depth. The actual savings GAO thinks possible from the current program are in the 10-14 percent range -- but you wouldn't know that from reading the ad because GE has cropped the picture so you can't read the full text on that page of the report.”

No other authoritative source in the government is projecting such savings from a so-called competition and with good reason. Moreover, a $62 billion GAO figure is magically rounded up to $100 billion by GE, further obfuscating the fact that the actual amount up for grabs in a dual-source scenario is much smaller. Why? Because as Loren Thompson notes, “Most of the money in the lower figure would fall outside any competition, because it consists of spare parts and support that only one company can supply.”

Saving roughly 10 percent of $20 billion would only net $2 billion and that just isn’t worth another $3 billion to finally complete the F136’s protracted development. This gamble looks even worse when you consider it would really just create a forced split buy scenario, primarily burdening the U.S. Air Force since the Navy and Marine Corps have repeatedly said they only have room on their ships for one engine, the Pratt & Whitney F135 that’s already government certified and in production.

Thompson concludes that the Pentagon “already have an engine that works fine, and that's all they need -- just like on every other plane the military services have developed for the last quarter century. But at least GE is honest about one thing: if Congress wants to keep developing its unneeded engine in the near term, it's going to cost taxpayers money that won't be available for more pressing needs.”

No wonder the White House and Pentagon have rightly opposed the F136 under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Their unwavering leadership, recently augmented by a new generation of fiscally conservative legislators, culminated in separate decisions by the House and Senate this year to defund the program. The Department of Defense directed the F136 team on March 24 to halt work, stating “The stop work order ended the expenditure of $1 million per day on an extra engine that the DoD has assessed as unneeded and wasteful.” Now, one month later, the program has been officially terminated. The truth is that powerful.

– EagleBlogger

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beware the Zombie

As veteran analyst Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute wrote in a late February blog on, the F136 extra engine has never made much sense, in large measure because the defense industry simply doesn’t work the same way as the consumer-driven marketplace.

Thompson notes, “Pentagon policymakers have argued every year since 2007 that GE’s ‘alternate engine’ is a waste of money that would duplicate efforts already made to develop the Pratt & Whitney propulsion system without providing corresponding benefits.”

Yet the F136 has lived on even longer than that. Its protracted gestation dates back to losing campaigns on the part of General Electric to have its engine chosen by Joint Strike Fighter finalists Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both of whom independently chose Pratt & Whitney’s F135 design instead. The F135 has gone on to power every F-35 flight to date, been certified by the government, and made a smooth transition to production.

Thompson argues the F136 has been buffeted by the turbulence of overriding the Pentagon’s oft-expressed wishes and best interests. “As the sole customer for the two engines, the government must cover all the costs of designing a second engine, developing and testing it, equipping and manning a second production line, funding a second supplier network, and sustaining a parallel maintenance and support infrastructure across the lifetime of the program.” In short, there’s a reason why no American military aircraft developed in the last three decades has featured multiple engines, nor for that matter do you see choices in avionics, landing gear and other major on-board systems.

Moreover, the cost of sustaining the F136 and bringing it to the market could equate to $8 billion in total, according to the federally funded Institute for Defense Analyses. The chances of such a massive investment ever being repaid is primary reason why the Pentagon and White House under both Democratic and Republican control have repeated sought to terminate the F136.

And that daunting figure presumes no further F136 teething troubles. By contrast, Pratt & Whitney’s F135 is derived from the proven F119 aboard all F-22 Raptors. Thompson adds, “Since the GE engine was begun later and not based on any prior design, its team is not as far down the learning curve and thus is likely to produce a less reliable engine.”

Lastly, Thompson debunks the notion that two engine suppliers will create more jobs, because the total number of engines will not change. “As a study by the consulting firm Whitney, Bradley & Brown pointed out, that means twice the number of vendors (with smaller amounts of work), twice the tooling, and twice the oversight…If there was a net gain in jobs from splitting the work among two teams, that presumably would be due to the inefficiency of the arrangement — inefficiency that raised rather than lowered the government’s costs.”

Two hundred and thirty-three cost-conscious members of the House of Representatives, especially dozens of Republican freshmen, took a big step in the right direction recently by voting to eliminate further funds for the wasteful F136.

– EagleBlogger

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Escaping From No Man's Land

As the White House and Congress turn their attention to the 2012 budget, battle lines are already being drawn. However, the war isn't just being fought from either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. On Capitol Hill, many members of the legislative branch found themselves uncomfortably caught between their party leaders and their constituents' clearly articulated desire to lower the national debt by eliminating waste in all its forms.

And as Pratt & Whitney have cleverly portrayed in our recent "Monumental Waste" ad, what could be more redundant than an extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter when the F135 has powered every flight to date, earned all necessary government certifications, and made a smooth transition to production?

To their credit, 233 members of the House of Representatives, including many freshmen, demonstrated ideologically rock-solid fiscal fortitude by voting to kill future funding for the $3 billion extra engine, despite the unwanted attention of the General Electric/Rolls Royce lobbying machine.

USA Today's Fredreka Schouten noted in a recent article, "Total lobbying by GE and its subsidiaries soared to $39.3 million last year, a nearly 50% increase over 2009 levels. A team of 21 in-house General Electric staffers, including former Capitol Hill and Pentagon officials, lobbied on defense issues for the company during the last three months of 2010, congressional records show."

In light of the recent House vote, we commend President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and the rest of the Pentagon senior leadership, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mullen, who told the Armed Services Committee, "I've been doing money a long time - I can't make sense out of a second engine." Kudos are also due for our supporters on Capitol Hill and even Speaker Boehner for allowing a free vote on this important issue. All of them have shown this debate is about doing what's right, not what's politically expedient. Eliminating the extra engine once and for all would be a great way for Washington to start winning the budgetary war and the voters' respect.

-- EagleBlogger

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Secretary Gates on the Extra Engine, May 2010

SEC. GATES: 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.

Let me just say we think -- with respect to the -- to the proposal for the alternate engine, we think the proposal is based on unrealistic cost estimates. 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.

The proposal does provide a fixed price, but not for the engine we need. 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.

The current engine -- their current engine, the alternate engine proposal, the engine is far less mature than the JSF engine. The proposed engine is still in development, has about 200 hours of testing compared to 13,000 for the F-135. Even the immature engines in the proposal would be more expensive than the JSF engine during the critical period of the program. And finally, the GE proposal assumes receiving a guaranteed buy of over half the JSF engines for three years in order to allow them to catch up.

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. Yeah, we're in favor of competition. But my idea of competition is winner takes all, and we don't have that kind of a situation here.

Q Is there a safety readiness and operational readiness concern that the alternate engine may actually boost operational readiness?

SEC. GATES: I don't think that anybody -- I haven't heard that argument by anybody.

ADM. MULLEN: I mean, I have no concern. The services have not expressed that concern. We've flown with single engines historically and done so very well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen on the Extra Engine

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on February 16, 2011

ADM. MULLEN: One of the things that we do in this town is we focus on getting stuff out the door as opposed to what it costs for life cycle. And this -- and it certainly applies on aircraft carriers, but it applies actually in all three services. This is two separate lines, two separate training, two separate maintenance manuals, two separate supply sources, all those kinds of things. And they lag each other significantly. I mean, I've been doing money a long time. I cannot make sense out of this second engine. It is two to three years behind. It's not going to compete, quite frankly.

We cannot afford to buy the second engine, I mean, from my perspective. And there have been multiple airplanes that are single- engine airplanes that are single source.

So I don't accept it; 95 percent of the fleet is going to go down at once. It just doesn't happen. We're better than that. If -- you know, the first engine will be, I think, more than adequate to meet the needs that we have for that airplane. And if I thought any different, I would, you know, be encouraging this engine, the second engine. I just categorically can't see that it's going to make any difference. It's going to cost us a lot of money, not just to get it out at the door, but over the life of its -- over the life cycle.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rep. Joe Courtney and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen Discuss the Extra Engine

Vote YES on Rooney-Larson

Today’s House vote on the Rooney-Larson Amendment to H.R. 1 offers the first true test of Washington’s seriousness towards cutting deficits and ending earmarks. Fiscal conservatives are unanimous in supporting this Amendment, and many will be scoring it for their annual ratings of Congress:

American Action Forum’s Doug Holtz-Eakin: "Buying two engines is not real competition and does not lower costs. It is a test of the spending discipline of both parties to defeat this amendment." (2/15/2011)

National Taxpayer’s Union: “A ‘YES’ vote on the Rooney-Larson-Westmoreland-Pingree-Griffin Amendment to H.R. 1 will be significantly weighted as a pro-taxpayer vote in our annual Rating of Congress.” (2/15/2011)

Americans for Tax Reform: “The CR currently contains funding for the wasteful Joint Strike Fighter F136 alternative engine, a program the Department of Defense has routinely argued it doesn't need or want.” (2/15/2011)

Freedom Works: “The current engine for the JSF has already proven to be sufficient for our defense needs, spending over $2.5 billion on an additional engine is wasteful and unnecessary.” (2/15/2011)

American Conservative Union’s David Keene: “The three billion dollars that supporters of this program are seeking for a favored contractor through the earmark process is money that the White House and the Pentagon under both Republican and Democratic Presidents feel does not need to be spent for any valid national security or defense purpose.”

Citizen’s Against Government Waste: “The decision on funding the alternate engine will be one of many tests to determine whether the talk about cutting waste by the incoming House Republican majority is rhetoric or reality.” (12/22/2010)

Cal Thomas (USA Today): “The alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter is the military’s version of a Bridge To Nowhere.” (8/26/2010)

Vote YES on Rooney-Larson.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rachel Maddow talks Extra Engine

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Three (More) Wrongs Still Don’t Make A Right

Poor General Electric. Sure, they generated $150 billion in revenue last year, squirreled away $79 billion in cash and equivalents, as well as boast $175 billion in backlog (which sure is a lot of light bulbs and dishwashers). But forget all that, not to mention the double-digit growth year on year. Instead, GE sheds crocodile tears over the “barrage of attacks” they’ve apparently suffered while trying to justify the unwanted, unnecessary and unaffordable F136 extra engine.

GE’s response has been swift, though it’s come from the rhetoric department, rather than engineering. While Pratt & Whitney’s F135 continues to power every F-35 flight and the F136 languishes on the test stand, GE has turned up the heat (they make nifty ovens too) through an ad campaign that sadly falls far short of the term self-cleaning. So let’s debunk three of the most egregious myths.

One frequent refrain of recent GE/Rolls-Royce ads concerns a so-called $100 billion monopoly. In fact, page 9 of a GAO report dated March 24, 2010 lists the figure at $60 billion, half of which is sustainment often performed at government depots. Of the remaining $40 billion, only about $20 billion covering initial engines and spares would be available for competition.

Another misleading claim is that F-35 competition will save $20 billion. The closest GAO comes to estimating savings is that “it may be reasonable to expect savings of” 10-12%. Applied to our $20 billion figure above, maximum savings would be $2.4 billion during 25 years of production. In reality, the extra cost of fielding two engines in a 50/50 split buy environment will likely negate any savings.

Last, but sadly not least, is the spurious charge about a $2.5 billion F135 cost overrun. The fact is $1.7 billion of this alleged cost growth comes from new scope directed by the government. Of the remaining $800M, approximately one third is attributed to the lift system hardware developed by Rolls-Royce as a subcontractor to Pratt & Whitney for the F-35B STOVL variant. The same Rolls-Royce who is partnered with GE on the F136! Wonder what that says about the future cost growth of the extra engine!

We could go on, but to read our previous myth debunking blogs about competition, risk and the industrial base, please click here.

Put aside the clever visuals, headlines and body copy and some basic facts remain irrefutable. First, the F135 was chosen through marketplace competition at the contractor level years ago. Second, its performance since that time has garnered all necessary government certifications. Third, two presidents representing both major parties, their secretaries of defense and senior leaders in the Pentagon have all advocated killing the F136. Fourth, one engine provider is the norm for DOD aircraft, a situation that has given GE roughly 75% of the military engine business from Apache helicopters to F/A-18 fighter jets.

Such a dominant position should allow GE to put away the handkerchief and perhaps discontinue using the “hot air fluff cycle” too.

– EagleBlogger

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Connecticut Machinists Urge Congress To Cancel the Extra Engine

Dear Members of Congress:

On behalf of thousands of hard-working members of District 26 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, we urge you to end funding the extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. We understand that as a part of the FY11 budget process there may be an opportunity to vote on this program and we ask that you stand with President Obama and our Secretary of Defense, reject funding wasteful earmarks and stop spending on this unwanted and unaffordable extra engine.

As Americans, we are proud and unwavering supporters of our military and securing a strong national defense. As taxpayers, we are determined that our dollars be spent responsibly. As union members, we are committed to preserving U.S. jobs. The facts show that the FI35 meets these criteria; the extra engine does not.

If the extra engine is funded, it will take much needed funds from the development of the F35, further delaying its completion. In the process, new jobs will not be created; they will simply shift from the F135 to the F136. This will most certainly have a negative impact on our workforce and U.S. jobs because a full 40 percent of the extra engine is projected to be manufactured by Rolls-Royce in the U.K. The result: almost half of the extra engine’s jobs will be moved offshore. With thousands of aerospace jobs expected to be lost in the U.S. due to the projected end of the F-22 program this year, backing an unwanted program that will negatively impact the skill base of the U.S. aerospace industry and related jobs is counter to the interests of America’s working men and women and our membership.

Meanwhile, we are pleased to report that the FI35 is doing its job well while reducing costs, generating U.S. jobs and preventing Congress from having to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on an extra engine earmark that according to the military is not needed, wanted and a waste of money. We are particularly proud that our engine is in full production, flying flawlessly on the aircraft and is within budget parameters.

Given the F135’s performance, it is hard to make the case to delay the program and spend more for a second competition – as GE/Rolls-Royce is now demanding. The fact is, in 1995 there was a competition for the F-35 engine and the three prime contractors unanimously selected the F135 engine over GE’s. GE lost the bidding process and did not appeal the Air Force’s award.

We hope we can count on you to stand up for American jobs and end wasteful earmarks. At a time when we are all concerned about cutting the deficit and saving U.S. jobs, ending the funding for the extra engine is the right thing to do.


Everett C. Corey, Directing Business Representative, I.A.M.A.W District 26

James Parent, President, Connecticut State Council of Machinists

Thursday, February 3, 2011

F-35B BF-5 First Flight takeoff

F-35B BF-5 First Flight takeoff

The last Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II assigned to developmental flight testing departs Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base on its first flight Thursday, January 27, 2011.

The F135 Engine is the ONLY engine powering the Joint Strike Fighter through all of its flight testing.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rep. Tom Rooney: A Common Sense Approach to Trimming the Defense Budget

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) is out with a letter to his colleagues, urging them to support cancellation of the wasteful extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

*A Common Sense Approach to Trimming the Defense Budget*
From: The Honorable Thomas J. Rooney
Date: 1/28/2011
*Oppose Funding for the "Extra" Engine*

Dear Colleague:

At a time when our country is facing a projected $1.5 trillion deficit, it is extremely critical that we spend every taxpayer dollar wisely. In the area of defense spending, a dollar wasted is a dollar that we will not have for vital equipment to keep our country and troops safe. Unfortunately, Congressional earmarks in the Pentagon’s budget have led to wasted money and unnecessary, duplicative programs.

For example our next generation fighter jet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is currently in production, and will replace many of our military’s aging aircraft. The F-35 has proven successful during flight testing with its current engine, yet Congress continues to earmark funding for a second, “alternate” engine in the defense budget year after year.

General Electric/Rolls Royce claims that with an additional $1.8 billion they will be able to field the extra engine for the F-35; the trouble is we have heard this before. In 2008 GE spokesperson Rick Kennedy stated: “…$1.1 billion still needed in U.S. funding to deliver a fully competitive unit.” Three years of defense dollars has gotten us no closer to a working engine and GE/Rolls Royce continues to ask for more earmarked spending.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly stated that he is opposed to the development of a second engine for the F-35. U. S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford and Maj. Gen. Johnny Weida said the alternate engine is “…unnecessary, too costly, and risks diverting resources from production.” Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David Heinz stated that funding the alternate engine project would “take 50 to 80 tails out of the program.”

Spending billions on a duplicative program does not efficiently utilize our defense budget to best serve our men and women in uniform. The extra engine will not make our country any safer, but instead will take limited resources away from our troops.

I plan to oppose continued funding for this wasteful program, and I urge my colleagues to join me in calling for the program’s elimination.


Thomas J. Rooney
Member of Congress

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Actors, Same Script

Call me crazy, but I thought last November's election delivered an unambiguously clear message from voters of both parties plus highly coveted independents that the old ways of Washington, from backroom deals through wasteful earmarks, needed to be reformed once and for all. And, yes, some initially promising steps were taken beginning in the waning days of the 111th Congress.

Yet, if you look closer, it becomes apparent that the real-life home makeover of Congress has stalled following the delivery of new window dressings, especially when it comes to judicious use of the family piggy bank.

And if ever there was a prime example of wasteful spending, it's the F136 extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Despite losing multiple down-select decisions to Pratt & Whitney's F135 (which has since powered every JSF flight, earned all necessary government certifications, and made a smooth transition to production), the F136 continues its zombie-like march, consuming billions of taxpayer dollars along the way while providing absolutely nothing in return.

Why has Congress allowed this travesty to continue unabated? Surely, voters don't want their legislators to further perpetuate monumental waste on the F136. After all, the past two presidents have tried to cancel it, plus civilian and military leadership at the Pentagon have said they don't need it, don't want it and won't use it.

Even worse, the defense bill in the last Congress did not authorize the F136, the Senate has specifically singled it out to be de-funded,and President Obama has repeatedly vowed to veto any bill that included it.

So, what keeps the F136 alive, despite being inherently duplicative and years behind the proven F135? Sadly, it comes down to politics as usual. Apparently, the Republican commitment to cut wasteful spending stops at their respective district boundaries when pie-in-the-sky promises are made. It's hard to draw any other conclusion, based on successful lobbying by General Electric of House Speaker John Boehner and others, combined with Rolls-Royce's skillful wooing of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Rep. Mike Pence plus the House of Commons (whose interest let's remember is British jobs, not American ones).

Over the years, the F136 has become the quintessential earmark: kept alive by spending that is not authorized, nor requested by the Obama administration. Yet, it survives despite strong rhetoric from House and Senate GOP leaders who have made a big show of eschewing earmarks. If only irony wasn't so recklessly expensive.

One has to wonder if the new 112th Congress arrived for their opening night performance forgetting the lines voters so tightly scripted for them. Admittedly, these are still early days, yet this is clearly not the show for which we bought very expensive tickets. As those of us with theatre backgrounds know, today's hit can find itself cancelled well before its intended run is complete. Today's cast now just hitting the stage would be well served to remember who paved their way to stardom. Now is not the time to lose the plot.

- EagleBlogger

Rep. Pete Stark criticizes "engines the Pentagon doesn't even want"

Rep. Pete Stark criticizes colleagues who say they want to cut spending but continue to support "extra planes and engines the Pentagon doesn't even want".

Friday, January 21, 2011

White House reaffirms veto threat against extra engine

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs aboard Air Force One en route Schenectady, New York

GE is still being paid to work on a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. And the Obama administration has threatened to veto that, but it’s still going on. Is the veto threat still stand? And why does the spending keep happening, given our economic times? Is it jobs?

Well, I will say this -- look, the Secretary of Defense, the President have made the point that this is not something that we need. I think whenever the military tells you that something that -- the military is spending money on something the military doesn’t need, especially in these times, it’s important that we pay heed to that.

Look, we’re going to go through obviously another round of appropriations over the course of the coming year. And the President and the Secretary of Defense will again reiterate as we’re tightening our belts, as everybody is tightening their belts, we don't need -- there are things we simply don't need. And that's certainly one of them.

Does the veto still stand though, the veto threat?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Old News Is No News

Sometimes proverbial smoke leads to fire. And in other cases, there can be far less to a story than some might infer.

Such is the case of “screech” in which certain pressure pulsations occur when operating in full afterburner mode. This phenomenon is not new to military aviation and therefore not unique to Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, although it was inaccurately reported as a “new” problem by the Air Force Times this week.

Nonetheless, Pratt & Whitney discovered screech around May 2009 during development testing at low altitude and high speed. It has already been addressed with minor hardware and software modifications that eliminate the issue. In fact, design of this fix benefitted directly from tools and processes developed for our F119, the only engine to power the F-22. Together, the F119 and F135 are the only two production engines to provide augmented stealth capability, particularly noteworthy at a time when would-be stealth aircraft elsewhere in the world have garnered a disproportionate amount of media attention.

Now that the modifications have been identified and implemented, the F135 provides maximum thrust throughout the flight envelope. Modified test aircraft have shown excellent results, while the production configuration is being validated this year for both the F135 Conventional Take-Off and Landing / Carrier Variant (CTOL/CV) and Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) model. After all, full thrust throughout the flight envelope was a prerequisite for the government granting Initial Service Release for the CTOL/CV engine in March 2010, followed by the STOVL one in December 2010. No other fifth generation propulsion system has even come close to certification, let alone production.

Therefore, a mention about screech contained in an annual report from the Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation hardly qualifies as breaking news or even news. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming already in progress.

– EagleBlogger

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NBC's Michael Isikoff on the Extra Engine

Rachel Maddow and NBC's Michael Isikoff discuss what's been keeping the extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter alive after it was targeted for cancellation by the White House and the Pentagon.

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MADDOW: One of the great unanswered questions of 2011 is whether or not the new supposed anti-spending zealotry in Washington this year means that defense will be cut, too or whether defense gets to keep growing indefinitely - indefinitely, inexorably because we`re all still living in the world Ike described 50 years ago.

Michael Isikoff, NBC`s national investigative correspondent, has been looking into the new Congress and its approach to historically untouchable, uncuttable(ph) spending. Mike, thanks very much for joining us. What have you been finding?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rachel, what I`ve been finding is the military industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned about is as awesome and as powerful as ever.

And we`ve seen some pretty dramatic examples in just the last two weeks. Secretary Gates announced that he wanted to cut some $78 billion from the Pentagon budget, unnecessary, unneeded programs.

And you would think in this current environment in which cutting discretionary spending has been identified across the board as the absolute number one priority in Washington, he would get a receptive hearing.

In fact, what he got was a ferocious pushback from members of Congress who have gotten generous campaign checks from defense contractors who would be identified for cutting and/or who have defense plants in their district which would lose jobs.

It`s the military industrial complex in full play. Two examples that really left out - one is that Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle for the Marines that you mentioned, and we`ll get to that in a moment.

Another one that`s pretty interesting is the alternate engine for the joint strike fighter brought to you by General Electric, which, of course, owns this network for at least currently, and Rolls Royce.

In both cases, and certainly in the joint strike fighter case, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration targeted this for elimination saying we don`t need two engines for the same airplane. It creates all sorts of logistical problems. It`s a waste of money.

And in fact, Congress consistently has pushed back, both getting - both because of large campaign checks and also a ferocious and awesome lobbying campaign by General Electric and Rolls Royce.

In fact, one kind of an example that I thought was kind of fun is, right now, everybody in Washington reads that "Politico" Mike Allen`s playbook every morning. Well, all last week, the week after Gates made his announcement, you would have gotten that playbook sponsored by GE and Rolls Royce plugging the alternate engine for the joint strike fighter.

Who is for the joint strike fighter? Well, let`s start with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. He said in an interview with Brian Williams two weeks ago that cutting defense spending would be on table.

But he`s a big supporter of the alternate engine. Why? The Evendale, Ohio plant where the engine is primarily made, right outside his district. Who else? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He`s got a Rolls Royce plant in his district.

Who else? Mike Pence, the deficit hawk, arch-deficit hawk, got a Rolls Royce plant in his district in Indiana. Now, it`s one to be bipartisan about this.

Among those who are trumpeting pushing hard last week, writing the White House letters on this to release funding for the joint strike fighter, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio, trying to protect those jobs in Ohio. It`s the military industrial complex at work.

MADDOW: But Mike, you mentioned the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle as well. We highlighted that as a stupidity test for Congress. Who is going to fight to safe this very expensive, over-budget thing that doesn`t really work, that the military doesn`t want? Do we have results yet on that stupidity test?

ISIKOFF: Yes, we do. And I`m afraid some of the very same characters, Sherrod Brown, Democratic senator from Ohio. Why? Lima, Ohio has one of the plants that the EFV is being made.

But who else? The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard McKeon, and the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees it, Aiken of Missouri, both got maxed-out contributions from the maker of the EFV, General Dynamics.

And by the way, if you were looking for any better example of the military industrial complex, take a look at General Dynamics, a company that spends millions on campaign contributions, millions on lobbying Congress. And just for fun, I looked at its board of directors the other day. And of the 10 board of directors, at least five former admirals, former generals, top Pentagon officials, the revolving door from the Pentagon and the military to the defense establishment helping to keep those defense dollars flowing.

MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, NBC`s national investigative correspondent, I`ve been looking forward to getting your report on this for a very long time since I knew it was coming. Mike, thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Video of the Second F-35B Test Jet Making a Vertical Landing - VIA

From DefenseTech

"Here’s some film of the second F-35B short take-off and vertical landing Joint Strike Fighter test plane making its first vertical landing on Jan. 10 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland."


The F-35B is powered by Pratt & Whitney's F135 engine, the only engine powering the Joint Strike Fighter through its flight tests.

Friday, January 7, 2011

GE "Iceberg" Ad Full of Distortions

You’ve been told: P&W’s engine to power the JSF is already 2.5$ Billion over budget with more than $1 billion in overruns within the past year.

You should know: $1.78 of this alleged overrun is the result of new requirements ordered by the Pentagon because of added weight to the aircraft. Of the remaining $800M, approximately one third is attributed to the lift system hardware developed by GE’s partner Rolls Royce as a subcontractor to P&W.

Additional costs were attributed to a redesign of the third stage turbine blade in 2009. This redesign was a normal part of development and test of propulsion systems and yields a safer, more reliable engine.

Pratt & Whitney has worked very aggressively through the last year to bring down our engine costs. We have invested significantly towards achieving our cost reduction goals. The F135 is on track to meet its cost targets and the Joint Assessment Team agrees that we have an executable plan as demonstrated in our most recent contract proposal which offers a double digit percentage savings to the government. The Joint Assessment Team which evaluated cost and affordability of the F135 program validated that Pratt & Whitney’s cost reduction plan was achievable, and in the DoD response to the GAO report said “Pratt & Whitney can realistically achieve their cost goals.”

The additional funding provided to Pratt & Whitney in 2010 is to support the extension of the F-35 flight test program following the program’s restructuring. It IS NOT related to development of the F135 engine. (Pratt defends cost-cutting measures on F-35 engine, Reuters, 3/12/10)

You’ve been told: GE Rolls-Royce F136 engine performs better and costs less.

You should know: An engine that hasn’t left the ground can’t perform better. The F135 is in production, in the air and the only engine powering the F-35 today.

You’ve been told: Competition will fix P&W’s cost overruns.

You should know: Competition Already Determined the Winner. Competition for the JSF engine happened at the contractor level when competing airframers selected a P&W engine under government rules. This process of selecting subsystems, including the engine, as part of the overall weapon system, is standard during concept demonstration. The DoD has concluded that further competition will NOT save taxpayer dollars. No other military aircraft developed in the past three decades has been procured with multiple engine suppliers. There is no extra engine for the F-22, F/A-18, C-17 or the BlackHawk and Apache military helicopters. GE thinks the government should pick the winners and losers. Pratt & Whitney believes the marketplace should pick the winners and losers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why Fast Became the Enemy of Good

Against all odds, the lame-duck session marking the post-election end to the 111th Congress proved surprisingly productive with just enough bipartisanship to mark the passage of numerous high-profile bills for President Obama to sign into law.

Yet, attempts by some in Congress to push a wasteful $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill have thankfully been turned back by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). These two principled New Englanders understand that rushing a bad bill with more than 6,600 earmarks and a cost of $8.6 billion was far worse than simply passing the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House finally did with just hours to spare.

Chief among the waste that needs to be cut in 2011 is nearly half a billion dollars for the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 extra engine, which is years behind Pratt & Whitney’s proven F135 now in production. Moreover, the F136 continues to suffer numerous developmental setbacks, adds no additional capability, complicates future military logistics, creates no net jobs since the number of F-35 aircraft will not change, and diverts vital funds that could support the warfighter in countless other ways. No wonder this engine has been opposed vigorously by Presidents Bush and Obama, their defense secretaries and military service chiefs, along with a coalition of third parties that spans the political spectrum from organized labor to fiscal conservatives.

As our recent ads in the Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Maine daily newspapers note, we appreciate Sen. Lieberman and Snowe’s “vigilance and astute stewardship of the American taxpayer’s money.” Clearly, government agencies need a predictable and transparent funding stream; this is especially true for the Defense Department as they continue to wage war in southwest Asia. But in an age of unprecedented belt-tightening and voter discontent with politics as usual, a bloated omnibus bill infected with thousands of earmarks totaling billions of dollars was simply irresponsible, as would continuation of the F136 through the NDAA or other means.

As the holiday break ends and the new 112th Congress take their seats, they should seriously consider what “gifts” they bestow on themselves, our warfighters and the American taxpayers. Wasteful earmarks like half a billion dollars for the F136 extra engine aren’t just woefully out of style or even a souring lump of coal. They are the dreaded leftover fruitcake no one can swallow.

– EagleBlogger

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jobs Here and Now, Not Over There and Gone for Good

It’s an undeniable fact that the aerospace and defense industry provides some of our nation’s most vital and valued jobs. Any new aircraft that takes to the skies to move people and cargo or defend the nation is a testament to the skilled labor of love by thousands of engineers, machinists, test pilots, sales and support staff, as well as government overseers. And the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is no exception. Thanks to a strong team at the Department of Defense, Lockheed martin, Pratt & Whitney and hundreds of suppliers, the F-35 will deliver unmatched capability for the U.S. and its allies for decades to come.

Yet, if the F136 extra engine team had their way, nearly 40 percent of the jobs to bring their underperforming, over-budget engine to market – through the discredited earmark process no less – would be outsourced to England, which isn’t a state the last time I checked my trusty desktop atlas.

That’s the simple point made in Pratt & Whitney’s latest print ad, which has garnered support from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 26 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Organized labor understands that high value aerospace jobs are an irreplaceable strategic asset, especially when unemployment stands at 9.8% and 15.1 million American citizens remain out of work.

Meanwhile, the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine goes from strength to strength. Over the holiday break, Initial Service Release for the F135 Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing variant was achieved as anticipated. This milestone means the propulsion system is now certified as the production configuration and cleared for flight in the Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighter.

We also sold our first two STOVL production propulsion systems and delivered them to Lockheed Martin in December. Of the 12 production engines delivered to date, eight have already been installed in their respective aircraft, while negotiations for an LRIP 4 contract have moved from a “cost plus” to a firm fixed price basis.

Not content to rest on our laurels, Pratt & Whitney is taking aggressive steps to work from Pentagon acquisition chief Dr. Ashton Carter’s “will cost” curve and looking for additional opportunities to lower prices, The company plans to sell the F135 at the same cost as the F-22 powering F119 by the 250th engine, which is significant since the F135 is 1,500 pounds heavier and generates 25% more thrust.

Bottom line, Pratt & Whitney’s engine is real, gaining its last ISR certification, performing at a 98% readiness level, and being installed in an increasing number of production aircraft. It simply makes no sense to cut deliveries of this proven engine in favor of the F136 that is years behind, seemingly always “just one more billion dollars” from completion, living off of wasteful earmarks, and inherently duplicative – except when it comes to the ever-present issue of American jobs. On that last topic, the F136 falls on the wrong side of the pond and as they say in Britain, that’s just not cricket.

– EagleBlogger

White House: 2nd Engine Is Fat That Can Be Cut

On Sunday's This Week With Christiane Amanpour, White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee responds to ABC's Jake Tapper's question about fat in the budget (spending discussion begins at 6:30) :

Tapper: Where specifically does President Obama want to cut spending? Where is there fat to cut from the budget?

Goolsbee: Well, as you know the President's going to release his budget. We are going to have to make in the immediate run a series of tough choices. And the President's not afraid to do that and I think you will see that in his budget.

Tapper: Give me one. One spending cut the President's willing to do.

Goolsbee: Well, last year you saw they put out $20 plus billion in terminations and reductions. The President obviously doesn't just get to dictate what those cuts would be, but you saw with the Joint Strike Fighter second engine and a series of other specific cuts.