Too Cloudy

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told House lawmakers Tuesday that the business case for maintaining two engine suppliers for the F-35 strike fighter isn’t convincing. “It just looks too cloudy to us,” he said while defending the Obama Administration’s decision to go forward with only Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine in Fiscal 2011 and stop work on the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 powerplant. He acknowledged that it wasn’t by any means an easy decision. However, he said, “it is a close-enough call that we cannot see right now the benefits” of investing more money in the F136 with the expectation of reaping some potential savings later on. Appearing with Donley, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz believes another “problematic” issue in justifying two engines is that the Air Force would be the sole benefactor among all F-35 customers, something Defense Secretary Robert Gates has previously stated.