Pigs can't fly, but military pork sure can. That is unless Kansas' congressional delegation and other lawmakers wise up and ground the alternate engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Pentagon doesn't want the alternate engine. Neither does the Obama administration. Nor did the George W. Bush administration.
Yet Congress has earmarked more than $1 billion for the alternate engine since Bush first proposed ending it in 2006. And last week the House Armed Services Committee voted to authorize $485 million more for the engine.
According to some estimates, Congress has paid $3 billion to General Electric and Rolls-Royce for the alternate engine since the mid-1990s. Defense officials estimate the alternate engine could cost $3 billion more during the next six years.
"To argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste ... frankly, I don't track the logic," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said last week.
Supporters of the alternate engine argue that the competition will help lower costs. But competition already occurred when companies bid to build the new airplanes and chose an engine built by Pratt & Whitney.
Funding an alternate engine seems to be about spreading military spending around (GE has a facility in Arkansas City). But given our nation's deficit and growing debt problem, lawmakers need to focus on getting the most bang for our military spending, not bringing the most pork to their home districts.
An amendment is expected in the House this week to block funding for the alternate engine and use that money to replace National Guard equipment. Reps. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, and Jerry Moran, R-Hays, and other lawmakers who claim to be fiscally conservative should support such an amendment (or, better yet, one that uses the savings to reduce the deficit).
To their credit, Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., were among a majority of senators who opposed funding of the alternate engine last year, though Congress ended up approving $465 million anyway.
If funding for the alternate engine manages to get through Congress again this year, President Obama should follow the advice of Secretary Gates and veto the entire defense bill.