Monday, January 31, 2011
*A Common Sense Approach to Trimming the Defense Budget*
From: The Honorable Thomas J. Rooney
*Oppose Funding for the "Extra" Engine*
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
Friday, January 28, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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.
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
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?
MR. GIBBS: 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.
Question: Does the veto still stand though, the veto threat?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
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.
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
"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
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
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.
Monday, January 3, 2011
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.
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.