Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Inouye Ignores Veto Threat Against F-35 Engine Funding

Aug. 12, 2009 – 1:11 p.m.

In a rebuff to President Obama, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Defense Subcommittee says he will support continued funding of a second engine for the F-35, the newest U.S. fighter jet.

Daniel K. Inouye , D-Hawaii, disclosed in a brief interview that when his committee writes the Defense bill in September he will back continued development of the competitive engine, as he has in the past, “because,” he said, “it makes good sense.”

President Obama has called spending several billion dollars on a second engine wasteful and has said it could trigger a veto of the Defense spending bill. Inouye and other supporters of the second engine argue that competition between two engine manufacturers could drive down prices, as well as reduce risks that problems in a single design could ground large numbers of F-35s, if not the entire fleet. The president and other supporters of one engine say the savings are mythical and the risks of a widespread grounding are slim.

Inouye’s stance runs against the grain of not only the White House but also Senate votes last month effectively endorsing the single engine strategy during consideration of the defense authorization bill.

But the defense appropriations bill is another matter. When the final version of that measure is written, Inouye will be joined in supporting the second engine by his House counterpart, John P. Murtha , D-Pa.

Inouye’s refusal to back down from his support of a two-engine program is noteworthy, given that he relented in his support of the F-22 fighter jet under circumstances similar to those at play on the F-35 engines. In both cases, Obama issued a veto threat and the Senate acceded to his wishes on the defense authorization bill.

For now, at least, Inouye is standing firmly behind two F-35 engines.

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