June 25, 2009 (by Bjørnar Bolsøy) - The White House threatened yesterday that it might veto the 2010 defence bill to fund the F-35 alternative engine program.
F-35 AA-1 engine test
In a statement by the Office of Management and Budget the administration "strongly objects" the plan to add another $603 million in funds and recommends a veto if the final authorization bill "would seriously disrupt the F-35 program." The Administration maintains that expenditures on a second engine are unnecessary and that requiring the Department to fund it "will delay the fielding of the JSF
, impacting the Department's overall strike fighter inventory". They add that the current engine is performing well and that "the alleged risks of a fleet-wide grounding due to a single engine are exaggerated".
The opposition is not unwarranted. Repeating last years effort, House lawmakers recently cut the number of planned F-35 aircaft from 30 to 28 from the Pentagons fiscal year 2010 budget request to fund the second F-35 engine program. The House's mark-up of the FY10 authorization bill removed one jet for the US Navy
and one for the Air Force, but added funds for F136 procurement, spares and development. In addition $129 million was added for F-35 spares and support in the Air Force budget.
Meanwhile, recognizing the need for an engine competition Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, told reporters yesterday that House appropriators will try to find funding without reducing jet purchases.
"We need a competition ... and we probably won't take funding out of airplanes ... We'll just find the money ourselves", Murtha said.
Shifting funds from other priorities is going to be an uphill battle, but buying fewer airplanes at a higher
cost is not an option for the Administration. So far, though, the White House "if" clause so far leaves
a door open for the second engine.