Lawmakers Press White House to Include GE Engine in Stopgap Bill

Joint Strike Fighter F-35 aircraft
The primary engine for the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 aircraft currently is made by Pratt & Whitney. Source: Lockheed Martin Corp.

A bi-partisan group of U.S. lawmakers fighting to include General Electric Co.’s Joint Strike Fighter engine in a stopgap spending bill has extended its lobbying to address the White House.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and White House budget director Jacob Lew today, the lawmakers said the money for the alternative JSF engine should be part of a so-called continuing resolution that keeps most government programs at current spending levels. Earlier this month, the group urged Norm Dicks, the outgoing chairman of the House defense appropriations committee, to support their proposal.

Gates opposes money for the GE engine as unnecessary and a waste of money. United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit makes the primary JSF engine, and Gates has said repeatedly he will urge President Barack Obama to veto a bill funding the GE version.

“Congress has funded the engine program for 14 consecutive years, including $430 million provided for continued development” in fiscal 2010, the lawmakers wrote Gates. The full House voted May 27 to include another $485 million in the pending fiscal 2011 budget.

“Until Congress finalizes action on the budget request, the committee would expect the Department to respect the constitutional authority vested in Congress and take the action required to provide the necessary funding,” they wrote.

The letters to Gates and Lew follow a Nov. 19 letter from the lawmakers to Dicks, a Washington Democrat.

Republican Majority

The signers include Howard McKeon, a California Republican in line to lead the House Armed Services Committee when the 112th Congress convenes in January. Republicans will have a majority in the House.

McKeon was joined by senior committee Republicans Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Todd Akin of Missouri and outgoing Chairman Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat who was defeated on Nov. 2.

The JSF is being purchased by the Air Force, Navy and Marines to replace different types of fighter and strike aircraft. Lockheed Martin Corp. is tailoring the plane to meet each service’s needs.

Congress approved stopgap legislation Sept. 30, when fiscal 2010 ended, to keep the government from shutting down as lawmakers headed home to campaign for the Nov. 2 midterm elections. That measure didn’t contain the $485 million to continue engine development. The bill expires Dec. 3 and must be renewed.

It isn’t clear how a loss of engine funds would affect the GE program, said Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company. The project has about 2,400 employees in the U.S. GE and its congressional allies say having a second engine is pivotal for ensuring the JSF’s readiness.

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