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The Last Gasps of the Alternate Engine

January 8, 2011

» The Last Gasps of the Alternate Engine.

Ugly little bugger ain't it?

In a recent post, I spoke about the Alternate Engine program for the F-35 JSF, something many of you might not have been aware of.  Basically, we already have an engine for the F-35, but some genius decided General Electric should be afforded the opportunity (and the multi-billion dollar contract) to build another engine we don’t need.

The reasoning behind the engine was so that we could “source” another engine if we had supply issues with the original provider Pratt & Whitney.  The problem is, the Alternate Engine is actually an “alternate” engine.  Not a licensed copy of the Pratt & Whitney version.  To me this is freaking retarded.  I shouldn’t have to point out that a modern day jet fighter is one of the more complex machines in existence, every major system designed to work together in harmony.  The Joint Strike Fighter is even more complex, using Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) technology heretofore not seen before in any aircraft.  To suggest you take the most important sub-system in that craft and just “build an alternate engine” is beyond absurd.  If you know cars, it would be like Ferrari asking Chevrolet to make an alternate engine for Ferrari’s Formula-One car – it might get the red beauty moving, but it ain’t gonna work as good.

Not to mention, this is for you folks who aren’t familiar with the way the military works, imagine the logistics needed to have peeps trained on the maintenance of two different engines for the same bird.  The multiple field and technical manuals, the tools, the spare parts needed.  Basically, we are doubling down on all the equipment and supplies necessary to keep a powerplant operating in one fighter.

I should point out, the Alternate Engine program is entirely politically motivated.  I am sure most of you noticed GE is the builder.  Lot of GE love in the government.  Oh, and it would be built in Ohio and Indiana.  Why is this important?  Check out this quote from a brief on the program from Citizens Against Government Waste:

The biggest key to understanding why some members of Congress are so adamant about funding the alternate engine program is a letter written on April 23, 2009, to President Obama by Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) and cosigned by 24 members of the House. All but four of the signatories come from the states of Indiana and Ohio.47  This is not a coincidence, given that GE plants are designing, building, and testing the F136 largely in these states.  This is a prime example of pork-barrel legislation – sending federal dollars back home to win votes.

What was the motivation for the four not from Ohio or Indiana?  Cashola of course.

The motives of the four non-Ohio and Indiana representatives can be similarly explained.  Reps. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) cannot be called out on pandering to constituents, but both have received thousands of dollars from the PACs of General Electric48 and Rolls-Royce,49 while Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) has received money from the General Electric PAC, and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) has received donations from the Rolls-Royce PAC

Nobody who’s opinion actually counts wants this damn debacle, but congress continues to fund it.

Regardless of opposing arguments, expert testimonies, threats of a presidential veto, and the Pentagon’s repeated refusal to request funding for the F136 in its budget, Congress has found ways to subsidize this wasteful project.  The alternate engine received $1.2 billion in earmarks from FY 2004 through FY 2010, including $465 million added anonymously in FY 2009 and FY 2010.44

On July 23, 2009, the Senate voted 59-38 to eliminate funding for the alternate engine from its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010.  The House, however, included an anonymous earmark worth $603 million for the alternate engine in its version of the bill.  The House also included an anonymous earmark worth $560 million for the alternate engine in its version of the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act; here again, the Senate did not fund the F136.  The final version of the Defense Authorization bill contained $560 million for the alternate engine, while the Defense Appropriations bill contained $465 million.

This is ridiculous!

Our defense is not something to be used as payoffs to mega-corps who don’t need our help in the first place.  This is just more examples of our congress going crazy with other people’s money.  A lot of people love to blame the military for the huge defense budget, and while they are surely culpable in part, a lot can be attributed to our representatives giving love to their corporate supporters.  I am sure the Alternate Engine program is not the only case of this happening.  How much money could we save if we ended all this excess?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2011 5:17 pm

    That’s exactly what it has become Colin, the industrial complex to payoff special interest groups. It’s really quite sad. Great post.

    • January 8, 2011 5:51 pm

      Its nauseating. How much money have we wasted over the decades for unnecessay projects such as this? How great would our military be beyond what it already is if they were allowed to choose all the projects they wanted funded? I seriously think every member of congress should be in prison.

      • January 8, 2011 7:06 pm

        I think someone needs to take a hard look at all this nonsense. If they did, some people just might indeed end up in the big house.

      • January 8, 2011 7:37 pm

        Too bad congress polices themselves, so we will never see that happen.

  2. January 8, 2011 9:52 pm

    This is absurd. I don’t remember this ever happening with any other system that uses an engine. At first I thought you meant it would run on ethanol or wood or something. A big waste of money is what this is like the Boeing tanker deal.

    • January 8, 2011 11:13 pm

      Hmm, I never thought of that, I guess the name is a little misleading. Its almost less egregious if that was the purpose of the program, some alternate fuel engine. But nope, its just a way to pay-off GE.

  3. January 9, 2011 6:26 pm

    Nice balance here. You clearly favor a strong defense, but don’t want to just blindly throw money at every weapon related program that comes along.

    • January 9, 2011 8:40 pm

      For sure. We can have a strong defense without wasting money. In fact, being frugal would result in a stronger military more fully supported by the populace in total.


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