U.S. lawmakers are moving ahead with their pledge to fund the F136 alternate engine for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, inserting funding in the House Armed Services Committee's markup of the 2011 defense authorization bill.
Made by a GE/Rolls-Royce team, the engine would compete with Pratt & Whitney's F135.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said May 19 during the markup that "competition is warranted and critical and costs nothing more, according to the GAO."
F136 supporters on Capitol Hill say competition could save millions of dollars by driving engine costs down and ensuring high quality from the engine-makers.
GE officials lauded the committee's move.
"Given the enormity of the JSF program, competing engines on the aircraft is the best way to put the acquisition reform act into action," said David Joyce, CEO of GE Aviation. "With the growing concern over cost overruns in defense programs, competition continues to be the best cost-control mechanism."
The Pentagon is fighting the idea, saying an alternate engine will save no money and that it is a distraction for the troubled F-35 program. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he will recommend that President Obama veto the bill if it has alt-engine funds.
In addition to funding development work on the engine, the markup orders the Pentagon to budget for the engine in 2012.
The markup also takes a step to force DoD to actually use the funds authorized for F136 development by limiting F-35 development funds in 2011 "to 75 percent until the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics certifies that all funds for development and procurement of the F-35 competitive propulsion system have been obligated," Air Land subcommittee chairman, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said.
The legislation also contains language inserted into the bill by the subcommittee last week limiting the number of F-35s the Pentagon can buy next year to 30 jets until the program meets certain milestones toward getting back on schedule and budget, according to Smith.