Republican House hands Obama big victory over new warplaneBy Arun Kumar, IANS
Thursday, February 17, 2011
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama has scored a big post election victory with the opposition Republican controlled house voting to cancel $450 million for an alternative engine for the Pentagon’s next-generation warplane.
With 47 Republican newcomers joining Obama’s Democrats, the House Wednesday approved in a 233-198 vote cancellation of funding for a second F-35 engine backed by Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders.
Pentagon officials - and two administrations - have for several years tried eliminating the alternate engine, being built by Rolls-Royce and General Electric.
Officials say it is too expensive and not needed because the primary engine, being developed by Pratt & Whitney, will be sufficient.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates’s spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said in a statement that the defence secretary “welcomes today’s vote and is gratified that the full House has recognized the merits of the department’s position in opposing the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) extra engine”.
Congressional supporters of a second engine say any design flaw in the primary power plant could prove catastrophic by causing department of defence to ground the entire fleet.
But Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, noted it is a derivative of the power plant in the F-22 and added that other US military single-engine jets have had only one engine design.
The office of Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent out a blast e-mail noting 110 “rank-and-file” Republicans voted to kill the engine even though work on it would be done near House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio district.
The Democrats dubbed funding for the engine “the Boehner earmark”. The e-mail noted Boehner did not vote, as is customary, but that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor voted to keep the engine alive. And the project “also conveniently benefits his district”, the e-mail said.
Earlier Wednesday, Gates issued dire warnings against additional defence budget reductions - and encountered little resistance from liberal or conservative House members.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])