Why Did Congress Just Approve Unwanted $485 Million Jet Engine?

The Pentagon insists it neither wants nor needs the second F-35 engine

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Congratulations America: your House of Representatives has voted to spend $485 million on your behalf to buy a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, despite a Pentagon spokesman's statement that "We don't want nor need the extra engine." Both Secretary of Defense Gates and President Obama have lambasted the purchase, which the House voted to include in the massive defense appropriations bill, as wasteful and unnecessary. The House bill must still be merged with the Senate version, but Obama has suggested he may veto the final legislation if it includes the engine provision. How did this happen anyway?

  • The F-35 Cursed by Wasteful Spending  Wired's Noah Shachtman sighs, "The bad news keeps coming for the F-35 program, the biggest and costliest in Pentagon history." He recounts all the nasty over-spending, including the story about the one F-35 plane that somehow became three.
  • Fight Between Manufacturers Overtakes Congress The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock and Dana Hedgpeth write, "The primary engine for the Joint Strike Fighter is manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, while the second model is built jointly by General Electric and Rolls-Royce. The manufacturers have been engaged in an increasingly visible fight to win support on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts where parts for the engines are made. Both sides have media campaigns that include full-page ads in major newspapers, slots on radio programs and pushing their respective sides on blogs, Facebook and Twitter."
  • This Is Gates's Personal Battle Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin writes, "Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's push to change how the Defense Department sets its strategic and spending priorities faces its next major test in Congress Thursday, and Gates is heavily involved in seeing it through behind the scenes. ... There's a torrent of speculation that Gates will leave office early next year ... and Gates has been giving a series of speeches leveling harsh criticisms of the way the United States goes about organizing and funding its national security infrastructure. Given the entrenched interests on Capitol Hill, within the military, and in the wider defense community, it's the kind of initiative only an official with unassailable credibility and the freedom of not worrying about his next job can pull off."
  • Why Congress Wasted So Much On F-35  The Boston Globe fumes, "Since 2006, the Pentagon and both the Bush and Obama administrations have been trying to eliminate what they consider an unnecessary and expensive alternate engine for the Joint Striker Fighter, which is being built by General Electric and Rolls Royce. Yet Congress has earmarked more than $1.2 billion for the alternate engine since 2004. ... Most of the alternate engine's supporters hail from states that have facilities that will produce parts for the program. That includes the GE plant in Lynn, which helps to explain Democratic Representative John Tierney's endorsement of the engine. He had 17 earmarks worth $13.4 million in fiscal year 2010, according to Citizens Against Government Waste."
  • Could This Scrap Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman points out that the House defense appropriations bill also includes the just-passed provision to repeal don't ask don't tell. "If the conferees are unable to strip the funding for the engine out, Obama -- who last night said repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell would 'help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive' -- would have to choose between infuriating his defense secretary [by approving the engine] or abandoning one of his central promises to [repeal DADT]."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.