Nothing gets the point across like underlining your words - and that is precisely what the White House did today in issuing its veto threat over the alternate engine for the F-35. From the Statement of Administration Policy today:
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Extra Engine: The Administration strongly objects to the addition of $485 million for the extra engine program and to associated legislative provisions that limit the obligation of overall JSF development funding to 75 percent of the amount authorized until the funds for FY 2011 have been obligated for the extra engine program, require the Secretary to ensure that each budget in the Future Years Defense Plan include, and expend, sufficient funding to continue the program, and designate the F135 and F136 engine development and procurement programs as major subprograms. As Secretary Gates has noted, even after factoring in Congress’ additional funding, the extra engine would still require a further investment of $2.4 billion before it could be considered as a viable extra engine for the JSF program. The Department does not believe that this cost will ever be recovered in a hypothesized competition or that the funds should be diverted from important defense needs. The current engine is performing well with more than 13,000 ground test and 200 flight test hours. If the final bill presented to the President includes funding or a legislative direction to continue an extra engine program, the President's senior advisors would recommend a veto.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: The Administration strongly objects to provisions of the bill which could limit the procurement of the 42 aircraft requested in the President’s FY 2011 Budget. The onerous restrictions impose unacceptable schedule and budget risks on the JSF program. While the Department believes the restructured development schedule is achievable, failure to achieve any one of the criteria would affect the procurement decision with significant impact on unit cost, production ramp, and TACAIR force structure. The Department's F-35 procurement request is in line with independent manufacturing studies, risk review recommendations, and the FY11 request reflects an optimized production. If the final bill presented to the President contains provisions that would seriously disrupt the F-35 program, the President’s senior advisors would recommend a veto.
The Statement came as the House was debating the Fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill, in which the House Armed Services Committee strongly recommended $485 million toward the GE-RR F136 engine. Rep. Chellie Pingrell (D-Maine) has offered an amendment to divert the funds elsewhere, following the White House's and Pentagon's wishes, but as of 7:20 p.m. EDT the House still had not recorded a vote on the proposal. A voice vote on Pingrell's amendment was decided in favor of F136 proponents, but that was set aside for the recorded vote.
During afternoon floor debate, the conversation was spirited, albeit predictable. “Competition works,” declared Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), “being penny wise and pound foolish doesn’t.”
“I guess competition in this town means buying two of everything with taxpayers’ money,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) fired back. “If we can’t cut spending here, where can we cut it?”
UPDATE: at 9:50 p.m. EDT, the House rejected Pingree's effort to divert the F136 funds that the HASC mandated. The vote was not close - 231 voted against her proposal, 193 voted in favor - but it does indicate that a veto-override later may not be as easy.