The Pentagon’s acquisition chief is highly critical of House-passed legislation that would allow and to continue working on the engine for the Joint Strike Fighter if the companies funded the effort on their own.
Ashton Carter, who has long been opposed to the F136 engine, says two of the provisions “would impose an unacceptable series of costly and damaging limits on the department’s ability to execute this important program,” in a June 13 letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), as reported by the Project on Government Oversight.
, the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, which makes the engine, is based in Connecticut.
One provision would limit funding for the JSF engine program if performance enhancements for the F135 engine are required. The other requires the government to store the F136 equipment and would allow GE and Rolls-Royce access to the equipment as long as the companies fund their own efforts.
From Carter’s point of view, both provisions are disastrous. The first would “significantly delay, disrupt and increase the cost of the JSF program,” Carter writes in the letter, which elaborates on a Statement of Administration Policy from the White House Office of Management and Budget that threatened to recommend a veto of the fiscal 2012 defense policy bill over the JSF engine language.
Carter dismisses the latter provision as “simply not realistic,” saying the only way the government could store more than 250,000 items of government property at no cost “would be to provide to the contractor only property that is not needed by the government for any other purpose, and on the condition that the property would be returned in the same condition.”
He adds that the property gathered by the government under the F136 program — including the lift system’s common hardware — is useful to the JSF program overall and the F135 program as well. The F136 ground test engine also could be used on other programs, including the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology program, and other defense department research labs have asked for the F136 hardware, he says.
Carter also takes a swipe at the idea of self-funding. To make sure the engine is completely funded by GE and Rolls-Royce, the House provision “would need to state that any and all costs associated with the further development of the F136 engine and preparation for competition would be unrecoverable directly or indirectly in any present (via overhead charges) or future contract with the U.S. government,” Carter says.
Despite the administration’s continued, aggressive opposition, GE is banking on support for the House language by key Senators, including Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who continues to back the idea of competition.
As for Carter’s letter, GE spokesman Rick Kennedy says it “supports a known assumption that the JSF program will ultimately fund two engines — either two engines from P&W, because the current one is under-performing, or competing engines from GE/RR and P&W.