Pratt officials come to Washington–but not to lobby against GE provision

Top executives from Pratt & Whitney made the trek from Hartford to Washington on Monday, in part to brief defense reporters on the status of the company’s Joint Strike Fighter engine-the F135. During the 2-hour session at a swanky Washington club, Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt’s military engines division, downplayed the effort by Pratt’s rival, General Electric, to keep its alternate JSF engine alive.

GE pushed for-and won–language in the House allowing it to continue to “self-fund” an alternate engine. The House recently passed a defense bill including that GE-backed provision, along with a measure requiring the Pentagon to purchase both the GE and Pratt engines if, at some point down the line, the Defense Department decides it wants improvements in the Pratt engine.

Croswell said Pratt isn’t lobbying to kill that provision-leaving that task to defense officials who have come out in strong opposition to the provision. He and other Pratt officials noted that the White House has threatened to veto the defense bill if it includes the GE language. “That’s pretty powerful,” Croswell said.

Even if that language survives in the Senate, Croswell and others said the measure won’t have any impact on Pratt’s production of the F135 this year. But they conceded it could hamper the company’s hold on the Pentagon work down the line, as the Department of Defense will almost certainly ask for improvements in the engine’s performance as the JSF program progresses.

Such a move would then presumably trigger the requirement that DOD re-start the competition between GE and Pratt, which for now has been limited by Congress’s decision to nix funding for GE’s alternate engine.

“It’s hard to assess the logic of that language,” said Edward O’Donnell, a vice president in Pratt’s military engines division. “There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny of that language.”

The measure’s fate in the Senate is unclear. But GE supporters from Massachusetts and elsewhere have signaled that they plan to push the House provision in the Senate’s version of the defense bill.