By Matthew McKillip
In the opening address of Heritage’s Protect America Month, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) praised the two companies for putting their own money on the line and embracing free-market principles.
Even without additional funding from the Pentagon, GE and Rolls-Royce will continue to develop an alternative Joint Strike Fighter engine, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee announced in a speech at The Heritage Foundation this week.
“Instead of lobbying for the final 20 percent needed to finish the engine, the GE team has committed to funding the engine for Fiscal Year 2012 on their own dime,” McKeon said. “They believe in their engine and they believe in competition. Thanks to their willingness to compromise, we’ll break up a monopoly and potentially harvest billions in savings, while fielding a more capable, more robust fighter jet — all at zero cost to the taxpayer.”
Last month, the Pentagon withdrew funding for the engine, calling it an unnecessary “extra” — a view McKeon said he strongly opposes. Originally, the Pentagon planned to sponsor a competition between the two companies to create the engine. Whichever company was more effective would earn a contract with the Department of Defense to produce the engines for the military. But in the end, the Pentagon cut funding to GE and Rolls-Royce and handed the contract to Pratt & Whitney.
“I’m curious how protecting a monopoly for a program that will span decades and cost $400 billion is in the best interest of the taxpayer,” McKeon said.
According to McKeon, the decision to cut funding to GE and Rolls-Royce was symptomatic of President Obama’s defense-budget-cutting style. As the president seeks $400 billion in cuts, he’s being “driven by financial needs, not defense needs,” McKeon said.
Military missions have expanded greatly since World War II and now encompass a wide range of responsibilities outside of waging wars — including guarding the seas, protecting computers from hackers and viruses, providing humanitarian aid across the globe, protecting United States assets in space and deterring aggression from rising powers. But funding has not necessarily kept pace.
“If the president expands the military missions, he must expand funding, as well,” McKeon said. “Our military is expected to faithfully discharge a number of new demanding duties. … To ask them to accomplish these tasks with antiquated equipment left over from the Cold War while separated from their families every year is simply disgraceful.”
Some of the cuts the president has proposed will actually cost more money. For example, the Department of Defense has plans to temporarily halt the production lines of the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Abrams tank — but shutting down production only to restart it at a later date costs more than just maintaining it.
“This is a no-brainer,” McKeon said. “With ground forces heavily deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of IEDs very real, increasing costs to decrease our fleet of armored vehicles is foolishness.”
McKeon agrees the Pentagon should cut internal waste — but he has a very specific idea for the reinvestment of those savings.
“[They] must go back to defense,” he said. “Not to health care. Not to Social Security. Not cowboy poetry. And not to any pet project the Obama administration deems a higher priority than our security.”
One of McKeon’s own priorities is modernization: “Ten years of war have chewed up a lot of equipment. We need a reset.”