Pentagon cancels F-35 alternate engine program

The Department of Defense has terminated the contract for an alternate engine for the F-35 fighter jet. 

The Pentagon halted work on the alternate engine being developed by GE and Rolls Royce last month and called the program a “waste of taxpayer money that can be used to fund higher departmental priorities.”

Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, issued the stop-work order Monday for the engine as well as "all activity on F136 development."

"The stop work order ended the expenditure of $1 million per day on an extra engine that the DoD has assessed as unneeded and wasteful," the Pentagon said in a statement. "The stop work order was put in place pending final resolution of the extra engine's future in Congressional action on the fiscal 2011 budget."

The Defense Department previously estimated that ending the second-engine work would save $3 billion. Proponents of the engine say it would save money in the long run.

The second engine grabbed headlines this year when the House voted on it during consideration of a 2011 continuing resolution to fund the government. Republicans joined Democrats in axing the program despite the opposition of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose home state hosts some of the engine work.

The primary F-35 engine is being built by Pratt & Whitney.

The Pentagon fought for years to end the second-engine program, which it considered a boondoggle, but lawmakers have kept it alive in spending bills.

A spokesman for House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) recently declined to say whether funding for the second engine will be included in the 2012 defense authorization bill.

“It is no secret that Chairman McKeon believes that funding the F136 engine would provide for greater accountability, better performance, and lower costs over the life of the [F-35] program,” spokesman Josh Holly wrote in an email to The Hill.

-- John T. Bennett contributed to this report.