- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In the Oct. 15 article “Engine of progress” (Commentary), a group of military leaders went on record supporting an extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. Everyone agrees that competition in government contracts is good, they wrote, so why not support building an extra engine?

The answer is that the president, former President Bush, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Pentagon’s military leadership know an extra engine won’t save money. Despite an endless lobbying campaign waged by supporters and foreign allies while the extra engine continues to suffer setbacks, four facts remain.

First, future competition would occur only in name. The Navy and Marines have made it clear they want one engine: the F135. International customers will not order enough F-35s to split their buy, leaving the Air Force to be forced into a “split buy” to generate quantities, complicating supply trains and increasing taxpayer costs.

Second, given our deficit, taxpayers cannot afford to spend $2.9 billion on an extra engine. The Government Accountability Office warned about assuming potential cost savings saying, “results are dependent on how the government decides to run the competition, the number of aircraft that are ultimately purchased and the exact ratio of engines awarded to each contractor.” They didn’t say the F136 engine would save $20 billion, as supporters claim, because it won’t.

Third, competition took place years ago when competing airframers chose an engine for their demonstrator. Both chose Pratt & Whitney’s under recognized rules. Now F136 proponents - who enjoy monopolies on several military aircraft - are asking for the contracting equivalent of a mulligan by crowing about the benefits of competition.

Finally, the F135 has met every challenge. Pratt won the competition, tested the engine beyond normal limits, won certification, secured American jobs F136 supporters would send overseas, brought the engine to production and will protect scarce taxpayer funds by avoiding duplication and utilizing economies of scale. An extra engine is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Competition doesn’t mean buying two of everything.

DONALD W. SHEPPERD

Major General, USAF (Ret.)

Consultant, Pratt & Whitney

Tucson, Ariz.