The Obama administration suffers from a credibility gap. House lawmakers, at least, don't think President Obama will veto a bill that contains funding for the F-136, the alternate engine for the Joint Strike fighter.
The House Armed Services Committee made it almost official yesterday that it will continue to fund the GE-Rolls Royce engine, authorizing $485 million for it. Final markup of the defense authorization draft comes Wednesday. "The committee has always believed that whatever development challenges the F-35 program might have, that to be a balanced program, competition needed to be an element of the engine acquisition program," Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the air and land forces subcommittee said in his opening statement. Smith was joined by Rep. Gene Taylor, chairman of the seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee, in his support for the F-136. "Notwithstanding the recent comments from the Secretary of Defense, the alternate engine program, at worst, is investment neutral over the life cycle of the program, and at best, will saves tens of millions of dollars by lowered procurement costs in a competitive environment," Taylor said.
On top of all that, Rep. Buck McKeon, top Republican on the HASC, told reporters at a late afternoon press conference that he didn't think the president would veto the bill, saying he'd been around a long time and thought they were bluffing. The veto threat, as we have pointed out repeatedly, is wobbly. Unlike the F-22, where the administration said the president would veto any bill funding the plane, the F-136 veto threat says that Gates will "strongly recommend" a veto to the president.
Addendum: The HASC did leave funding for the C-17 out of its bill, which the administration could reasonably call a victory. Of course, the Air Force has said repeatedly it just doesn't need any more of them.
But the F-136 stands as a challenge to the president. Bluff called, Mr. President. Will you raise or fold?