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Pass Supp Or Gates Does 'Stupid' Things

UPDATED: GOP Leaders Urge Obama To Push Spending; GE/Rolls Fire Back At Gates on F136

The House must act on the wartime supplemental spending bill by the Fourth of July or Defense Secretary Robert Gates will have to start doing "stupid" things. That's what Gates told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee this morning.

Among those "stupid" things: performing "disruptive" planning on how to manage money for operations. What might happen? Gates said the Navy and Marines will begin to run out of money in July; the "Army comes along a little behind that." Things would start to get serious in early to mid August when money in the base budget would begin to run out and the department would face the dire prospect of first having to furlough civilians and then plan for the possibility that it could not pay some of those in uniform.

Things have gotten complicated in the House when it comes to the supplemental. The defense spending bill has gotten tangled in $23 billion for teachers, an issue close to heart of Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who largely controls the progress of all spending bills in the House. And, of course, teachers unions are major supporters of the Democratic Party. That may have something to do with reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supportive of Obey's move to hold up the war supplemental until the teachers get something.

A few hours after the Senate hearing, senior House defense Republicans joined with colleagues who follow education and wrote a letter to Obama in which they urge him to push through the supplemental.

"The House has failed to provide the wartime supplemental funding to our military in Afghanistan and Iraq because the Democrat leadership intends to meet the demands of teachers’ unions by adding billions of dollars in new, extraneous funding for state and local budgets. Delaying funds to our troops on the front lines to bail out state governments is dangerous and irresponsible," they wrote.

The letter was signed by Jerry Lewis, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee; Buck McKeon, ranking member of the HouseArmed Services Committee; and John Kline, ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee.

In other news from this morning's hearing, Gates repeated his veto threat should funding for the F136 find its way into any of the defense bills. And he offered some new arguments for his opposition to the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. In his prepared testimony, Gates said "it would be a serious mistake" to think President Obama won't veto defense bills just because they contain things the administration really wants.

Gates said in his prepared remarks that "the solution to understandable concern over the performance of the Pratt & Whitney program is not to spend yet more money to add a second engine.” And he added some new wrinkles, saying the department thinks the GE/Rolls Royce engine "probably does not meet the performance standards that are required, and more money would be required to bring it up to those standards."

He also argued that a competition had been held and the best program offer had won. "My idea of a competition is winner-take-all and we've had that competition, and it's time to move on," he said.

The GE-Rolls Royce partnership fired back soon after the hearing ended:

The F136 engine is having an excellent testing program in 2010, meeting and exceeding all performance expectations in terms of aero-mechanical characteristics, temperature margins, turbine design, the control system and operability.

The secretary's comments contradict the detailed assessment from the Department of Defense, which has consistently awarded very good and excellent ratings to the F136.

The F136 development program is on time and on schedule.

At the onset of the F136's full-scale development program in 2005, the engine design was specifically modified to meet new requirements for the aircraft. As a result, GE and Rolls-Royce are highly confident that the engine will continue to meet and exceed all performance expectations during 2010, when a total of six test engines are scheduled to run, and next year, when the engine is flight tested on JSF aircraft.

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