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Entries in Rolls Royce (2)

Wednesday
May252011

Obama Administration Tries Again to Kill "Zombie" Jet Engine Project

United States Government/Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- Administration officials say President Obama will veto the defense authorization bill if Congress does not remove language that would extend the life of the controversial second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. It is a project that has lived on, even after funding had been killed.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter already has a primary engine that is being developed by Pratt and Whitney, and both President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have said they do not want work to continue on the alternate engine that GE and Rolls Royce have been developing. The Pentagon has issued a stop work order for the GE engine and officially stopped payment.

"The Department of Defense today notified the General Electric/Rolls Royce Fighter Engine Team and the Congress that the F136 Joint Strike Fighter engine contract has been terminated," a Defense Department release said in April. "The stop work order ended the expenditure of $1 million per day on an extra engine that the [Pentagon] has assessed as unneeded and wasteful."

But the engine, which has survived for years with the backing of powerful Congressional leaders and a push from a brigade of lobbyists, is not dead yet. The House Armed Services Committee's version of the defense authorization bill would force the Pentagon to allow GE to keep developing and testing the second engine as long as the development is self-funded. After the Pentagon issued a stop work order for the engine in March, calling it "a waste of taxpayer money," GE vowed to continue work on the engine using its own funds.

"If the final bill presented to the president includes funding or a legislative direction to continue an extra engine program," said the White House Office of Management and Budget in a statement, "the president’s senior advisors would recommend a veto."

President Obama has ordered the Defense Department to cut $400 billion in projected spending growth between now and the middle of next decade. The F-35 is among the Pentagon's largest budget items, with the cost of operating 2,400 of the jets for 50 years estimated at $1 trillion, and the cost of building each of the planes at $133 million per aircraft.

But the House Armed Services Committee, in addition to seeking to prolong the life of the Joint Strike Fighter's alternate engine, also wants to develop two engines for another aircraft, a long-range bomber. In a May letter to the Committee, a top Pentagon official said that "mandating such development will result in increased cost and risk."

"Moreover," wrote Undersecretary of Defense Ashton Carter, "the fleet size for the bomber portion of the Long Range Strike Family of Systems will be substantially less than programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter, where pursuing multiple systems proved unaffordable."

"A major tenet of the new bomber program is to maximize re-use of existing systems," said Carter. "Very realistic opportunities exist, which do not require development of a new engine."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

Pentagon Terminates Controversial Jet Engine

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon announced Monday it has stopped payment on a controversial fighterjet engine program that military brass long decried as a boondoggle but had thrived for years anyway with the backing of powerful leaders in Congress and a push from a brigade of well-connected lobbyists.

"The Department of Defense today notified the General Electric/Rolls Royce Fighter Engine Team and the Congress that the F136 Joint Strike Fighter engine contract has been terminated," a Defense Department release said Monday. "The stop work order ended the expenditure of $1 million per day on an extra engine that the [Pentagon] has assessed as unneeded and wasteful."

The statement was intended to bring finality to a decision that has for years been grist for an intensive public relations and lobbying war inside Washington. President Obama identified the engine, being developed jointly by General Electric and Rolls Royce, as a symbol of wasteful spending. He and others decried it as an unnecessary duplication of work already contracted to Pratt & Whitney, which had been tapped to design the propulsion system for the next generation of American fighter jets, known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

"The Bush administration opposed this engine. The Obama administration opposes it. We have recommended for several years now against funding this engine, considering it a waste of money," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters last May. "To argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste...frankly, I don't track the logic."

The Pentagon and the president repeatedly called for the program to be cut from the budget, but Congress always responded by setting aside more money for the project. Supporters of the alternate engine said taxpayers would benefit by having two defense contractors competing to develop propulsion systems for the fighter jet. Over the long haul, they said, the competition would force the price down and produce overall savings.

Critics disputed that argument, saying the development of two engines represented an enormous extra expense with no guarantee that it would yield savings. They also accused GE and Rolls Royce of exploiting their presence in key congressional districts around the country -- factories doing work on the engine are located within a few miles of districts held by House Speaker John Boehner, R.-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R.-Virginia.

The competing arguments helped fuel one of the most costly lobbying and PR campaigns in Washington in recent memory. The clash came to a head earlier this year as congressional leaders and the president negotiated the final details of the 2011 budget under a threat of a government shutdown. The engine project wound up on the cutting room floor.

GE, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics has spent more on lobbying over the past decade than any other American company, vowed Monday to continue to work on the project in the hopes it could be revived as Congress takes up the 2012 budget.

"While we are deeply disappointed by the DoD's 'Notice of Termination,' GE and Rolls-Royce remain committed to the [engine] and the significant benefits it brings to the American taxpayer and our fighting men and women," GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said in an email to ABC News.

"GE and Rolls-Royce will work closely with our Congressional supporters during the 2012 budget process in pursuit of incorporating the engine into the program, and preserving competition," Kennedy said. "We continue to be encouraged by the bi-partisan support for the engine on the merits of its performance and value. There is a significant willingness in Congress to revisit the [engine] funding debate as the consequences of terminating the engine are being fully understood."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio