The last nail in the coffin of an unneeded U.S. weapon system was hammered home on Monday, April 25. The end came when the Defense Department formally notified the "General Electric/Rolls Royce Fighter Engine Team" that its services and its jet engine won't be needed.
Hence, all those fancy full-page newspaper ads from GE touting the absolute necessity of building a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were for naught. The Pentagon isn't buying.
And that's a good thing.
DoD's acquisition office had previously reviewed its need for a second engine for the F-35, which would be flown by the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps. Officials there concluded that the project was "unneeded and wasteful."
At an estimated $50 million a copy (in 2002 dollars), the same argument could be made about the F-35. But that's a separate issue.
The decision to finally kill the F-35 engine program follows a landmark February vote in the House to cancel $450 million needed to continue funding the alternative engine. The vote was a defeat for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. The GE plant where the engine would have been built is in the Cincinnati area.
A month later, DoD acquisition officials issued a "stop work" order that cut off further engine development, work that the Pentagon said was costing $1 million a day.
An alternative engine for the F-35 fighter jet is yet another example of something the United States can no longer afford. We have our hands full just paying for the plane itself, to say nothing of the two (three?) wars that are contributing to our debt.
In the ongoing budget deficit debate, a $450 million earmark is a drop in the bucket. Still, cancellation of an unneeded and unwanted jet engine represents a small, symbolic victory in the drive to put our fiscal house in order while directing military funding not to machines, but to the soldiers on the ground who must fight our wars.