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F136 Phony Competition, LCS Good

Pentagon acquisition boss Ashton Carter today once again defended the Defense Department's choice to forgo competition for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter engine program while delivering a speech on how the Pentagon can buy smart in a time of flat defense budgets.

"We can't afford to buy two of everything," said Carter during a speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington today. He added that the  push to compete the GE-Rolls Royce F136 alternate JSF engine against Pratt & Whitney's F135 will not result in "real competition." Instead, the effort will result in two manufactures receiving "directed buys" to various JSF customers. He also reiterated the Pentagon's claim that it will take another $2.9 billion to get the F136 ready to compete against the F135.

"You'd have to imagine that you were going to get that $2.9 billion, and savings back, by a competitive procees which as I just explained is doubtful," said Carter. "For those reasons, {Defense Secretary Rober Gates] concluded that this was not real compitition, this was what he calls 'Washington competition'."

This comes a day after Rep. Buck Mckeon, presumed to be the next chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he wants to see continued funding for the F136.

While denouncing the notion of a competition for the F136, Carter held up the U.S. Navy's recent decision to buy both classes of Littoral Combat Ship due to lower than expected bid prices as an example of what a good competition can do. The service had originally planned to buy only one class of LCS following a competition between Austal USA and Lockheed Martin's designs for the ship.

The Pentagon's top weapons buyer went on to say that the Pentagon will continue to scrutinize programs for every possible way to save money, from narrowing down requirements that threaten to derail the U.S. Navy's next generation ballistic missile submarine program (SSBN-X) to closeley watching the requirments of the so called family of long range strike systems being developed by the Pentagon and even the VXX presidential helicopter program.

Even with such attention to detail, the DoD may have to embark on a new set of programmatic cuts similar to the ones that happened in the spring of 2009, Carter warned.

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