Wary of the Pentagon's wholehearted commitment to the presumed success of the Joint Strike Fighter, House lawmakers have fenced and moved program funding to ensure the Pentagon builds a second jet engine.
"The issue is that we do not believe that it is prudent for up to 80 to 90 percent of the fighter fleet to be dependent on a single engine type, provided by one manufacturer. Being tied to one engine is too high an operational risk to take," Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the panel, said in his opening statement this morning.
The House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee took the action in its markup this morning, continuing the years-long congressional commitment to a second engine program. This continues one of the defense world's favorite games of chicken. The Pentagon argues it doesn't need the second engine, built by General Electric and Rolls Royce, because it costs too much. The Pentagon knows all along, of course, that Congress is deeply worried that sticking to one engine poses too much cost, technical and schedule risks for such an important program.
Overall, the HASC subcommittee stripped only $10 million from the Pentagon’s JSF request. But it moved $603 million within the program to fund the second engine, $463 million for RDT and E and $140 million for procurement, according to a congressional staffer. Of that $35 million is for long lead items needed for the engine. In years past, the Pentagon has not spent long lead money for the engine, arguing the money just wasn't in the budget.
During the later seapower subcommittee markup, two significant measures were included in the draft bill.
First, my colleague Megan Scully at CongressDaily broke the story this morning that Rep. Gene Taylor, who has slammed the LCS program repeatedly for being way too expensive, is relenting and will lift a $460 million cost cap he imposed on the ship. Megan's sources tell her that taking government costs out of the cap will add about $62 million to the ship's legally allowable cost.
If the Navy can't hit the $460 million cap --with the government costs stripped out of it -- then Taylor will force the service to open the competition up to competition beyond Lockheed and General Dynamics, the current builders.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), top GOP member on the panel, pushed for and got rarely-granted multi-year procurement authority for the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The provision also encourages the Pentagon (and appropriators) to include $108 million for advanced procurement to reduce the overall cost per aircraft in the fleet. This would probably cover 150 aircraft over five years. However, the Pentagon remains adamant that the country does not need more Super Hornets, just as it refuses to release a PA and E study that details how the military reached that conclusion.