Yesterday, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee announced his support for a new and innovative approach to fund weapons procurement in tough fiscal times. In a speech before the Heritage Foundation, U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) praised the decision by General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce to fully fund their variant of the Joint Strike Fighter engine in Fiscal Year 2012 without any financial burden to the American taxpayer.
“GE and Rolls-Royce are aware of the current stresses on the defense budget and the taxpayer. I'm pleased to announce that instead of being part of the problem, they have decided to be part of the solution,” said McKeon in the speech.
He continued by praising the decision, “Instead of lobbying for the final twenty percent needed to finish the engine, the GE team has committed to funding the engine for Fiscal Year 2012 on their own dime. I will accept and support their approach. They believe in their engine and they believe in competition.”
This new partnerships aims to foster competition and eliminate a monopoly. “Thanks to their willingness to compromise, we’ll break up a monopoly; potentially harvest billions in savings, while fielding a more capable, more robust fighter jet—all at zero cost to the American taxpayer,” McKeon said in his speech.
Over the next 40 years, the United States has committed to buy over 2400 F-35 jet fighters for the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Without a competitive program, the United States would be granting a monopoly worth close to $100 billion to Pratt & Whitney, whose engine is already facing cost overruns.
Opponents ignore that our military has reaped benefits from engine competition in the past. In the late 1970s, the Air Force experienced significant durability problems with the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine that powered F-15 and F-16 aircraft. Because there was only one engine manufacturer for the F-15 and 16 engine, numerous aircraft were grounded while awaiting engines, and pilots faced engine throttle restrictions on those flying. Finally, the Air Force decided to support a competitive engine program, allowing GE’s F110 engine to compete against the Pratt & Whitney engine. The results were staggering. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that the Air Force achieved a 21 percent savings in five years of the F-16 engine competition. Contractors were more responsive and acquisition and support costs dropped.
With GE and Rolls-Royce promising to fund the program, taxpayers can now realize the benefits of competition at no expense. As Chairman McKeon pointed out, “The American taxpayers made a down payment on early technology development to enable industry to deliver results.” With the new JSF partnership, “the taxpayer gets the benefit of competition without having to pay for the entire program. It’s a win for competition, a win for the Armed Services Committee, and most importantly, a win for our nation’s taxpayers. I hope and would encourage the Secretary of Defense, Members of Congress and our industry partners to support this innovative approach to providing our troops with the resources they need to succeed.”