U.S. House votes down funding for second F-35 engine

The F136 engine, being developed by GE and Rolls-Royce, was intended to create more competition for Pratt & Whitney, manufacturer of the F135 engine currently on the F-35 fighter. Cancellation of the engine will save $450 million in the FY 2012 budget.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Feb. 16 to cancel funding for an alternate engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama, as well as Secretary of Defense William Gates, had lobbied strenuously against funding for the engine, jointly developed by General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce. The vote was 233 to 198. Republicans voted 110 to 130 to cancel funding; Democrats voted 123 to 68 to cancel funding.

Advocates of the engine, named the F136, noted that a second engine would create more competition and drive down the price for the F-35's original engine, the F135, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney. Ending funding for the F136 saves $450 million in the FY 2012 budget, and $3 billion over the next several years. Estimates indicate that GE has spent about $2 billion on the engine to date.

The F136 engine is manufactured in Ohio in the district of House speaker John Boehner. He abstained from the vote. It remains to be seen how the U.S. Senate will vote on the same bill. Even if the Senate approves funding, it must then pass the House-Senate joint conference committee, which reconciles conflicting legislation between the two house. And beyond reconciliation is President Obama's veto pen, which he has promised to use.