New twist in alternative engine fight

Pratt & Whitney supporters had hoped to put a quick and quiet end to the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter as the 111th Congress winds down.

And until Tuesday, they seemed to be on track. That’s because stop-gap spending measure that made its way through Congress this week to keep the government running did not include any specifically tagged funding for the alternate engine, made by General Electric and Rolls Royce.

But in a surprising new twist, the Obama Administration-which has staunchly opposed funding for the alternative engine-has apparently committed to keeping the program alive through next year, when a new Congress will determine the program’s future.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, an alternate engine supporter, sought reassurance from Obama’s top budget chief, Jacob Lew, on the issue. And he got it, according to this report.

Connecticut lawmakers are, not surprisingly, irked. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, said he would ask Lew to reconsider.

“The representations made in Director Lew’s letter to Senator Brown contradict OMB’s own guidelines about funding programs under a continuing resolution and is inconsistent with the strong opposition of President Obama and Secretary Gates to this second engine,” Lieberman said. 

Bottom line: The fight over the alternate engine will probably spill over into the 112th Congress.