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.