Friday, May 13, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Cut defense waste

Second District Congressman

In February, I led my colleagues in eliminating a redundant and wasteful government program that would save taxpayers nearly $3 billion. Along with 232 of my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, I voted to eliminate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate-engine program.

This program was started by Congress in 1995 and created an artificial competition between Pratt & Whitney and General Electric to provide an engine for the F-35 JSF. I say artificial because the Department of Defense was paying for the development of both engines, and once developed, held an annual competition to see which engine outperformed. This program has already cost the American taxpayer over $2.5 billion and is expected to cost up to $2.9 billion more.

As a member of the armed forces, I do not take cutting defense programs lightly. I know that the brave men and women in our military put their lives on the line, and it is my responsibility as a member of Congress to see that they are properly equipped. After closely examining the rationale for continuing this competition, however, I came to the conclusion that this effort does nothing to ensure the safety of our troops or increase our national security. Worse, the alternate-engine program diverts essential funding from critical military projects that keep our troops on the ground, and this nation safe from attack.

There are almost 30 U.S. military aircraft that operate with an engine manufactured by a single provider. In fact, the F-16 is the only aircraft in the history of U.S. military aviation with two simultaneous engine manufacturers. The bottom line is that we just cannot afford to waste money on developing two engines—one primary and one alternate—for one plane.

I am not the only one against subsidizing this wasteful alternate-engine competition. Each year since 2006, DoD has proposed the elimination of the alternate-engine program. Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have opposed it, and our military leaders have stated that a single engine manufacturer is suitable for the F-35 JSF. We must respect the taxpayers and their hard-earned dollars, and terminating the alternate-engine program is a step in the right direction.

As of today, our national debt is over $14 trillion and rising. If we are going to tackle our debt, we must reduce spending further. I believe that we must look at all federal agencies to identify waste and what programs we can cut or eliminate outright. No agency is exempt from the budget process, and I am determined to get our fiscal house in order.

I am pleased that the elimination of this program was included in the FY 2011 continuing-resolution agreement and that the Pentagon recently ordered the cancellation of the alternate-engine program.

Some in Washington are now talking about reinstating this wasteful program—not if I can help it. I will continue to monitor this issue for the taxpayer and ensure that the alternate engine remains cancelled.