If cutting spending was the equivalent of theNCAA basketball tournament then the costly F-35 alternative engine programwould be the ultimate Cinderella story. I’m not talking about the feel-good “smallschool taking on the big boys” type Cinderella, mind you, I’m talking about the“how in the world did they last this long with that kind of talent” type ofCinderella.
Fortunately for taxpayers, the F-35 Cinderellamay have just been bounced from the competition to reduce our nation’soverspending problem. Having survived a White House veto, numerouscongressional budget battles, and a bombardment of bills to defund the program,the Pentagon may have finally put an end to the alternative engine project.
Yesterday, the U.S. Defense Department issued a90-day stop-work order to General Electric and Rolls-Royce, temporarily haltingdevelopment of a second engine for the F-35. In a statement announcing thedecision, the Pentagon calledthe program a “waste of taxpayer money that can be used to fund higherdepartmental priorities.”
This should come as great news to taxpayers whohave been shelling out nearly $1 million aday to fund an engine program that many in Congress don’t want and theDefense Department says it does not need. Given this year’s $1.65 trilliondeficit it simply makes no fiscal or logistical sense to continue to fund twodesign teams, two supply chains, and two production sites for what is expectedto be no performance gains. If made permanent, ending the alternative engineprogram could save taxpayers up to $3 billion over the next 5 years.
The National Taxpayers Union has long pushedfor this result, arguingthat although the added competition may have achieved marginal potentialsavings, it would have come with enormous upfront cost to taxpayers. Morerecently NTU supportedan amendment to H.R. 1 that would have stripped funding for the F-35alternative engine, saving taxpayers $450 million over the remainder of thefiscal year. Although the 90-day stoppage is by no means a lasting solution, itis a long overdue step towards fiscal sustainability.
Having now survived two successive Presidentialadministrations, both of which have tried to eliminate its funding, thealternative engine program is a testament to the durability of pork. Fortunately,it’s Cinderella run appears over and taxpayers are all the better because ofit.