By LISA CORNWELL
CINCINNATI (AP) - The Defense Department has issued an order to stop work on an alternate engine being developed at a GE Aviation plant in southwest Ohio for the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet.
The department announced the order Thursday. The Obama administration and the department strongly oppose the program, and the president's fiscal 2012 budget proposal to Congress does not include funding for it. The department says "it is a waste of taxpayer money."
The engine is being developed by GE Aviation outside Cincinnati. Fairfield, Conn.-based GE makes the engine with London-based Rolls-Royce.
GE Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy says the Defense Department took action before Congress has completed this year's budget. He says GE Aviation will continue to self-fund the project "through this crisis."
Senator Sherrod Brown issued the following statement:
Following the issuing of a stop-work order for the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) competitive engine program, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) demanded that the Obama Administration fulfill the Administration's statutory obligation to continue funding the program as directed in the recently passed stopgap appropriations bill.
"The Pentagon may be on the other side of the Potomac River, but it's not on an island. It has to follow the law like everybody else. And it cannot thumb its nose at Congress and decide whether it will or will not obligate spending that has been signed into law by the President," said Brown. "That's not just my opinion, that's the view of the Office of Management and Budget."
"Arbitrarily eliminating funds for the Joint Strike Fighter not only wastes billions of taxpayer dollars but it threatens our national security," Brown continued. "Last week, Congress voted to maintain funding levels for this critical program. I will continue to fight for this vital program to save taxpayer dollars and hundreds of Ohio jobs."
Senator Robert Portman also issued a statement today:
"The Obama Administration is attempting an end run around Congress and the American taxpayers are penalized for it. Competition, not sole-sourced contracts, is what will drive down costs and serve the taxpayers' best interest in the long run. I will continue to work with the Ohio delegation to ensure that funding is restored in a timely manner and that taxpayer dollars are not wasted by halting work on the Second Engine."
Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) issued a stop-work order for the production of the F-35 competitive engine. Last week, the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fully fund programs—including the F-35 program—at previous levels.
Brown sent a letter to OMB Director Lew in December seeking confirmation that the Administration would follow Congress' mandate for funding the competitive engine program under a Continuing Resolution. OMB responded that the Administration would follow Congressional intent and continue the competitive engine program.
In February, Brown and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) urged Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew to reaffirm the Administration's statutory obligation to continue funding the program. Earlier this year, Brown and Leahy joined U.S. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Scott Brown (R-MA) in writing to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) respectively, in response to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to eliminate funding for the F-35 competitive engine.
The F-35 program will develop and deploy the fifth-generation strike fighter aircraft to meet the operational needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and their allies. The F-35 employs cutting-edge technologies including synthetic aperture radar integration techniques, advanced target recognition, and advanced capabilities in its resistance to jamming, maintainability, and logistic support. This engine competition for the F-35 saves money and improves our national security. GE makes the competitive engine with its partner Rolls-Royce and much of the testing is done in Evendale.