Senators Blink, Again

Work on the Senate version of the 2010 defense authorization bill continued Thursday, with a retreat by the lawmakers in the face of another Administration veto threat—this one targeting the long-held Congressional desire to keep in play an alternate engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. For several years, the Pentagon has tried to quash the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 program it began a decade ago to compete with the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine that now powers the F-35, and each time Congress has restored funding for the F136. However, on Thursday, Senators voted unanimously to support an amendment from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), in whose state P&W builds the F135, to cancel alternate engine funding in the defense policy bill. In a July 23 statement, GE officials state that “the funding battle … is far from over,” noting that House lawmakers and the Senate Armed Services Committee favored the alternate engine. They also state that the F136 development program “is 70 percent complete [and] has been executed on schedule and on cost.” All will have to await House and Senate conference negotiations.