DEFENSE DEPARTMENT POISED TO KILL JSF'S ALTERNATE ENGINE PROGRAM

December 19, 2005

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The Pentagon is poised to cancel the Joint Strike Fighter's alternate engine program, which is being developed by a team led by General Electric and Rolls-Royce, according to a Pentagon official familiar with internal budget documents.

Canceling this initiative would leave Pratt & Whitney, maker of the F135 engine, as the sole provider of engines for the fighters.

No decision to cut the alternate engine program has been announced by the Defense Department. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plan to cancel the program and recoup $1.8 billion in the coming years for other Air Force and Navy priorities is spelled out in an internal budget document.

The document -- known as the third program decision memorandum -- is part of the endgame of the Pentagon's fiscal year 2007 budget process. The memo was issued by DOD's office of program analysis and evaluation to the armed services in draft form last week.

JSF program spokeswoman Kathy Crawford said she could not comment on the FY-07 budget process.

Canceling the alternate engine program would be a big departure from the current plan of record.

In August, DOD awarded the GE and Rolls-Royce team a $2.4 billion contract to develop its F136 engine for the JSF program. The contract is for the system development and demonstration phase of the F136 initiative -- a phase scheduled to run through September 2013.

GE spokesman Dan Meador said the team is continuing to work on that contract.

The Bush administration's FY-06 budget, which is being finalized on Capitol Hill, supports the alternate engine program. In fact, a year ago the Pentagon confirmed it would retain the alternate engine program in another internal directive known as program budget decision No. 753.

The White House is scheduled to send its FY-07 budget to Congress next February. Even if the budget proposes canceling the alternate engine program, lawmakers would have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

In past years, members of Congress have been proponents of maintaining two engine developers for the JSF program. -- Christopher J. Castelli