07.23.09

Statement On F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I rise in strong support of the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Armed Services Committee, which has reviewed the program carefully, made the sensible move in restoring the almost $440 million necessary this year to continue design and development of the alternate engine, known as the F136 engine, made by General Electric Aviation.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program will likely emerge as the largest tactical aircraft program in the Nation's history.

Given developments in unmanned aerial vehicles, it could also be the country's last major tactical aircraft program. The F-35 will provide a tremendous general purpose capability to replace the Air Force's aging F-16s, the Marine Corps' AV-8Bs, and older versions of the F/A-18. We have to get development of this aircraft right. The kind of delays and cost overruns that have plagued development of so many other defense programs recently would be absolutely unacceptable in this far-reaching program.

An alternate engine would create competition. Competition would force both production teams to deliver a better product at a better price to the government.

An alternate engine would prevent a single-point failure in the F-35s continued development. If one program reaches insurmountable obstacles, the Department of Defense will be able to rely on the other engine. Finally, an alternate engine would ensure that the country has more than one military engine manufacturer.

Several nonpartisan, rigorous studies from groups such as the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Government Accountability Office have underscored the benefits of an alternate engine.

There is some question as to whether the existence of a second engine and the resulting competition would save money over the life of the program. One need only look to the history of the F-16 engine in the 1970s and the 1980s for an answer, which is a resounding yes. In that case, the availability of two engines resulted in a decline in price for the overall aircraft, allowing the government to buy more for less. Opponents of the alternative engine claim that cutting the engine will allow more planes to be built, when in fact what will happen is that the overall cost of the program will increase and incentives to build the best engine will be eliminated.

Real cost savings, improved performance: these are the reasons that we simply must continue development of the Alternate Engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. And it is these reasons that I will vote to continue forward with this absolutely essential investment that ensures we are getting the best product for our troops and at the best price for taxpayers.

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693