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.

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