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DoD kills 'extra' engine -- for real this time. Again.

Just like Steven Seagal in his classic 1990 action vehicle, the F136 alternate engine has proved Hard To Kill. But this time, DoD officials say they've done it -- for keeps: The Pentagon issued a press release this afternoon announcing that it has formally notified GE, Rolls-Royce and Congress that the contract for what Secretary Gates calls the "extra" engine has been "terminated." Yes, the announcement used that word.

It goes on:

On March 24, 2011, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter directed the F-35 JSF contracting officer to issue an order to the [Fighter Engine Team] to stop work on the F136 development contract. The stop work order ended the expenditure of $1 million per day on an extra engine that the DoD has assessed as unneeded and wasteful. The stop work order was put in place pending final resolution of the extra engine’s future in Congressional action on the fiscal 2011 budget.

Subsequently, H.R. 1473, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act for 2011 was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President on April 15, 2011. H.R. 1473 contains no funding for the F136 engine. Following this action, Carter directed the JSF Joint Program Office to cease all activity on the F136 development, and the JSF contracting officer determined to terminate the F136 contract.

And there you have it. After years, millions of dollars of lobbying and endless political wrangling, DoD has finally driven a stake through the heart of this program. The engine's Facebook page -- of course it has one! -- hasn't been updated since April 14. It hasn't updated its Twitter feed -- it's a very well-connected jet engine -- since April 18.

But! Officials in the Pentagon acknowledge that this is the beginning of a process, one that could even include a termination fee for the vendors, and that the alternate engine still isn't fully dead. What if GE and Rolls-Royce agree to keep financing work on this engine themselves on the odds that sympathetic lawmakers might turn back on the flow of money next year? That could be possible, and this program could come back to life yet again.

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