UDATED: With Links to Sen. Inouye's Markup Comments and Bill Summaries.
The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee unexpectedly dropped funding for the F136, the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the powerful subcommittee's chairman, had indicated before the August recess that he would support the second engine and his panel has always funded it in the past. But the markup of the defense spending bill contained no F136 money. But there were strong indications that Inouye may well have beaten a very tactical retreat, perhaps earning him something from the Obama administration in return for leaving the F136 money out of the bill.
After the subcommittee's brief markup of the bill Wednesday morning, Inouye had quite a twinkle in his eye when he told several reporters that the engine was now a matter for conference and acknowledged that he worried about a fight on the Senate floor over the engine's funding if the money had been n the defense appropriations bill. Making it a matter for conference may well ensure that the engine funding has a smoother sail than it would have if Inouye had included it in his bill.
General Electric and Rolls Royce made it very clear that they are not worried about the engine's fate. "There is strong and broad support for an engine competition for the Joint Strike Fighter. In fact, both Inouye and (Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee) Ranking Member Cochran, along with a number of the members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, are longtime supporters of the F136 engine. In addition, the competitive engine received strong endorsement in the House on an overwhelming 400-30 vote," said GE spokesman Rick Kennedy in an email headed "Joint GE/RR statement."
Kennedy went so far as to say the two companies are "confident of a successful outcome because competition and cost discipline in major defense procurement programs have proven to be in the best interest of taxpayers and our armed services."
For readers: click here for the contingency spending figures.