Sources: Defense bill has no funds for second F-35 engine

The defense appropriations measure agreed to Friday evening would not fund a second engine for the F-35 fighter program, congressional and industry sources said Monday evening.

House and Senate appropriators stripped funding for the second engine from separate versions of 2011 defense spending legislation crafted earlier this year. The House, in a high-profile vote, elected to cancel the project in a continuing resolution passed in February.

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But because the 2011 defense funding measure attached to a government-wide CR approved by both chambers late Friday evening contains no program-specific language, defense sources earlier Monday said it was unclear whether the alternate power plant program will be funded.

It will not, according to congressional sources.

Two congressional sources Monday evening confirmed that funding for the second engine, the F136 being developed by Rolls-Royce and GE, is not included in the 2011 defense bill.

Asked via email if the F136 engine would get funds under the defense spending bill, one House aide replied: "Your assumption is correct." Another aide replied to the same question: "No, not in."

An industry source who has been closely monitoring the F-35 engine battle reported the same Monday evening.

But Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for the GE-Rolls team, said Monday evening the team has been unable to determine decisively whether the program would get funds — but noted things don't look "positive" for the team.

"We aren't getting positive signs at this juncture," he said.

In a defiant sentiment, Kennedy said the F136 team will fight on.

"We've been in a self-funding mode ... for the past three weeks," Kennedy said. "So, the fight will continue into the 2012 budget, regardless of the 2011 outcome. We are keeping the GE Rolls-Royce team together. We've been strongly encouraged to do so by our congressional supporters who want to revisit the February House vote."

The Pentagon has for years wanted to terminate the second engine program, which was initially created by Congress. On March 24, the Pentagon ordered GE and Rolls-Royce to stop work on the F136 program.

Defense officials say it is too expensive at $3 billion, especially at a time of shrinking defense budgets, and is not operationally needed.

Proponents say it could bring tens of billions of dollars in savings over two decades, and would provide a plan B if the primary engine fleet, under development by Pratt & Whitney, has to be grounded.