Friday, May 28, 2010

Funding for Controversial Jet Engine Could Shoot Down DADT Repeal

I hate to be the one to rain on everyone's DADT repeal parade, but we're not out of the woods yet. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees both voted in favor of repealing the 17-year-old ban on open service, but we still have a long way to go before we can celebrate.

Repeal language is part of the Defense Authorization Bill (DAB), that would provide funding for the military for the next year. The legislation still has to go through the mark-up process and the house and senate versions have to be merged into one cohesive bill that will go to the president for his signature. Then we have to wait for the results of the Pentagon study and, hopefully, Obama, Gates and Mullen will all sign off on it. Then there will be a 60-day waiting period before implementation and nobody knows at this point what that will entail or how long it will take.

Assuming every step of the process goes our way, there is still a fly in the ointment that hasn't been discussed much. One of the numerous pet projects looking for funding in the DAB is a controversial and very expensive new jet engine that the president and the Pentagon say we don't need. The top Pentagon brass are urging the president to veto this bill if funding for two Joint Strike Fighter engines is included. reports:
...because the House defied President Obama's veto threat to hang onto funding for two Joint Strike Fighter engines, the situation is even stickier. With the engine money and don't ask don't tell, Obama is situated between a promise he's made to his most powerful Cabinet member and his liberal base of support on a landmark civil rights issue.

The Pentagon is aggressively pushing for a veto.

"We don't want nor need the extra engine, but this is just one step in a long journey and Secretary Gates is committed to staying engaged in this process the whole way, including if necessary ultimately recommending President Obama veto this legislation," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell after the vote.

So too is Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who supports don’t ask don’t tell repeal but who fought to strip funding for the General Electric engine but who said he was encouraged by a strong vote on the amendment and the fact that the Senate Armed Services Committee did not include funding for the engine in its bill.

“I fully expect the President to follow through with his threatened veto of the Defense Authorization Act if the F-35 Extra Engine Program is in the final legislation,” Larson said.

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