General Electric Co. officials told U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, in their first meeting since he took the post, that they’ll keep pressing to win congressional backing for an alternative F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine.
David Joyce, chief executive officer of General Electric Aviation, and other company officials met on Monday with Carter, who became deputy defense secretary last month, according to GE spokesman Rick Kennedy and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
The Pentagon in April told General Electric and partner Rolls-Royce Group Plc that it was ending the secondary engine program for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35. Since then, the U.S. House has included provisions in its version of the annual defense authorization bill to revive the project, which GE and Rolls-Royce plan to self-fund. The Obama administration opposes the legislation, calling the second engine wasteful spending.
The meeting took place at GE’s request, Whitman said in an e-mailed statement. In his previous position as the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Carter terminated the second-engine project.
Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., builds the primary engine for the F-35.
GE Aviation leaders discussed “the GE/Rolls-Royce desire to seek congressional approval to self-fund the F136 development in 2012, a proposal which received overwhelming support in the House Defense Authorization bill,” Kennedy said in an e-mailed statement. The topic was part of an update on the General Electric military engine fleet, Kennedy said.
Pentagon Still Opposed
Carter and GE officials agreed during the meeting to find ways to enhance “work on leading edge engine technologies,” Whitman said. The Pentagon’s position on scrapping the development of the second F-35 engine is unchanged, according to Whitman.
“We believe it is just as important as ever to advocate for the House DoD Authorization bill provision that preserves the F136 engine and associated equipment, while authorizing GE and Rolls Royce to self-fund the engine in 2012,” Kennedy said.
The House legislation prohibits the Defense Department from destroying or discarding the engines made by GE and Rolls Royce.
General Electric and Rolls Royce proposed to self-fund the development of the alternative engine for the rest of this year and next year. That would cost more than $100 million, Kennedy said in May. The company’s goal is to compete with primary engine maker Pratt & Whitney starting in 2016, Kennedy said.
Congress still has to approve the 2012 defense authorization bill, which sets spending targets and military policy. The House approved the bill in May and the Senate may start debating its version of the bill as early as next week.
The Senate Armed Services panel included a provision that prohibits any government funds to be spent on the development of a second engine for the F-35.