House bill cuts funds for F-35 jet engine

Pentagon, White House oppose GE/Rolls alternative as too costly

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The House Appropriations Committee’s defense spending bill calls for blocking all funds for developing an alternate F-35 jet engine, putting the panel’s bill at odds with the Armed Services Committee’s legislation permitting continued engine development.

Both the Pentagon and White House oppose the engine as too costly and President Obama has threatened to veto legislation that allows it.

The decision by the Appropriations Committee, disclosed Tuesday, is a setback for the efforts of General Electric and Rolls-Royce, designers of the second engine, that had offered to fund development of the controversial project after the Pentagon canceled the program.

In May, the House approved language in the Armed Services Committee’s defense authorization bill supporting the second engine for 2011 and 2012.

Some fiscal conservatives on the Armed Services Committee, including Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, Florida Republican who had led the campaign against the second engine earlier this year, agreed to support the engine measure because of the outside funding.

However, the authorization bill currently contains a provision requiring the Pentagon to buy the second engine if the current engine, built by United Technologies, required alterations that would raise its cost.

The White House issued a statement last week that threatened to veto the authorization bill over several provisions, including the engine measure that the statement said were unnecessary and a waste of money.

The defense appropriations bill, companion legislation to the authorization that appropriates funds, would decrease the size of the defense budget.

“Given the nation’s fiscal crisis, the legislation … targets appropriate savings in areas that will not impair the safety of our troops,” Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and Appropriations Committee chairman, said in support of the bill.

The biggest cut would come from emergency spending on the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would allocate $119 billion for in 2012, down from $158 billion in 2011.

Research and development funding also would be cut from $74.9 billion to $73 billion.

The bill calls for increases in spending on military salaries, matching the pay raise included in the defense authorization bill, as well as for health care programs and family benefits for service members.

Both bills also would block attempts to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to U.S.-based prisons by denying the use of defense funds for any transfers or modifications of prisons.

The appropriations bill will be marked up Wednesday by the defense appropriations subcommittee before being considered by the full committee.

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