Robert Hurt’s F-35 engine flameout

//Robert Hurt’s F-35 engine flameout

Robert Hurt’s F-35 engine flameout

By Carole Thorpe
Chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, Charlottesville VA

On February 16th on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Robert Hurt spoke our truth to power for nearly two and a half minutes for the urgent need to cut government spending and reduce the national debt. It was a masterful statement and a bravura performance. Congressman Hurt demonstrated a firm command of the devastating statistics which add up to our nation’s crisis, clearly laid out the impact on his constituents in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, and presented it all with statesman-like authority. Both a transcript of his comments and an accompanying link to a video recording of the C-SPAN broadcast ( are posted on his congressional web site.

After watching this impressive presentation, who would not feel assured that our congressman grasps the gravity of the ominous mess in which we find ourselves? In short, “he gets it.” However, any afterglow quickly dissipates with the rude awakening that followed less than three and a half hours later that day.

Incredibly, Congressman Hurt torpedoed the good ship he built and set afloat that morning by voting in opposition to the Rooney Amendment, designed to cut funding for the bottomless money pit known as the alternate engine for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This program is universally scorned as the poster child of unnecessary, wasteful government spending. A notorious and historic boondoggle, it is an orchestrated grudge match that pits the winning bidder of the original engine contract, United Technologies Corp. unit Pratt & Whitney, against the manufacturer of an alternate engine, General Electric and Rolls Royce-England. Taxpayers are annually robbed to underwrite an expensive competition for which we are promised production of the least expensive engine possible to ease our bottom line.

Along with the Pentagon, both President Obama and his predecessor have wanted to kill this project for years. Before we falsely laud this as an example of true bi-partisanship, we should note that President Bush had political reasons to support the original Pratt & Whitney engine as pork for Texas – and like all good Progressives, President Obama just wants to slash the military at every opportunity he gets. Yes, the whole debacle is a tangled web of special interests and pork barrel politics. Neither side has pure motives nor clean hands, and that must be taken into account.

There is one question that continues to loom large for the taxpayer and the lack of a satisfactory answer produces the appropriate gnawing in the gut. Of the 28 aircraft used by our military, why is the F-35 JSF the only one deemed by some to need a dual source engine? Don’t hold your breath waiting for a logical answer because there isn’t one.

There are pork-laden goodies up for grabs for several states involved, most notably for Ohio and Virginia who both benefit from production of the alternate engine. Speaker of the House John Boehner rallies support for G.E. and RR-E for the manufacturing the pork he can bring home to Ohio – and the same is true for Virginia, where every one of our eleven of congressmen joined in bi-partisanship to muster a unified vote for pork’s sake.

We taxpayers continue to get the hard sell from Congress in the form of the spend-money-to-save-money utopia. Even if we give our representatives the benefit of the doubt for their motives, it is a luxury we can perhaps afford only when our coffers are flush and the economy is good. But we certainly cannot afford it now when we must cut drastically today to save our tomorrow and our children’s future.

From Capitol Hill just minutes before the vote, Congressman Hurt thoughtfully returned my previous call inquiring his intended vote and the rationale behind it. He explained to me that it would be, in his words, “fiscally responsible” (and he misguidedly added “tea party compatible”) to fund the $450 million now in the Continuing Resolution in addition to the eventual $3 billion projected by the Pentagon, in exchange for the potential long term savings of $20 billion from the projected $100 billion final price tag.

There it was. The spend-money-to-save-money utopia reared its ugly head accompanied by the distinct odor of Washington business-as-usual wafting around it. I was disheartened to say the least.

So why should we place special significance on this single vote on this single issue? Wasted taxpayer dollars aside (and that’s no small aside), this is possibly an early indicator of the way Congressman Hurt may vote in the future when confronted with a choice between seriously cutting waste or siding with inside-the-Beltway delusional thinking. Frankly, if he’s not willing to cut wasteful spending for this monstrosity, isn’t it fair to ask how firm is his resolve?

Thankfully, the House voted 233 to 198 to pass the Rooney Amendment and cut funding on their part in a largely bi-partisan effort. Roughly half of the new wave of freshman representatives stepped up to the plate and smacked this no-brainer softball out of the park. Kudos to them, but sadly Congressman Hurt suited up for the wrong team and whiffed at the plate in THE most nationally visible game-of-the-day.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Congressman Hurt at the opening of his new district office in Charlottesville. While the media largely reported my presence, they predictably neglected to report that I shook his hand in their full view and thanked him for keeping his promise to vote to repeal Obamacare. Later, Congressman Hurt graciously granted me a few private minutes in his office. During our exchange of thoughts about the raising the national debt ceiling, he expressed a sincere desire to build a good relationship with the Jefferson Area Tea Party.

Despite his failure of leadership on the F-35 JSF vote, I remain optimistic that Congressman Hurt can be a responsive representative and an effective advocate of our core principles and agenda. He has demonstrated more positives than negatives so far, but I think we are wise to examine his ill-advised vote on this issue and pause with caution. I also believe it is important that both he and the public know early on that the JATP means business to praise our representatives when they act responsibly and admonish them when they do not.

We encourage and expect Congressman Hurt to cut wasteful spending while hoping his future votes will elicit words of praise rather than disappointment from our organization.

By |2016-10-28T19:27:39+00:00February 18th, 2011|Categories: Congress|Tags: , , |9 Comments

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  1. Mark Kevin Lloyd February 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Carol, I think i might have to disagree with you on this one. I worked for a beltway bandit for a while, and the fact that the company I worked for had a monopoly was costing the taxpayer millions. Sole source contracting is one of the main reasons that we are going broke.

    As I read about this, I have to support Robert Hurt’s vote. This actually puts this in a competitive bid situation. That is how markets should work.

    I also see that Pence and Bachmann voted with Hurt.

    I think you’re wrong on this one Carole. Free markets are built on competition, and this provides some competition.

    Dual source allows competition. I wish we had multiple sources for all government bids. It would save us billions.

  2. VA Tea Party Federation February 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Robert Hurt’s Response:

    “Robert’s opposition to the Rooney Amendment was a vote to prevent a devastating $100 billion monopoly to a single-source contractor that would have driven up costs for Central and Southside Virginians. Robert’s vote against the Amendment was one to strengthen the fundamental free market principle of competition and save taxpayers in the 5th District as much as $21 billion.” – Amanda Henneberg, Spokesman for Robert Hurt

    On Background: The non-partisan Government Accountability Office has twice found that by continuing the F-35 engine competition taxpayers would have reached significant savings of approximately $21 billion over the life of the program.

    On Background: What Other Conservatives Are Saying About The Joint Strike Fighter

    Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06) “I support a strong national defense and fair competition in defense contracting. As such, I will vote AGAINST any amendment to kill the alternate engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter. GAO estimates that competition for the engine can save the taxpayers up to 21%, which would result in a total saving of approximately $20 billion. In the final analysis, the alternate engine program is good for the war-fighter, and the taxpayers.”

    Congressman Mike Pence (IN-06) “The essential choice before us is between competition and sole source contracting. Either we can require two companies to engage in head-to-head competition each year for the next 30 years–or give one company a sole source contract worth $100 billion for the next 30 years. Which do you think is most likely to control costs and deliver the best engine to the American taxpayer?”

    Congressman Jack Kingston (GA-01) “Competition is good. And over the life of the F-35, having choice will improve performance and lower cost. With tight budget realities we do not need to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

    Congressman Mike Conaway (TX-11) “The Pratt & Whitney Company is desperately trying to achieve through legislation a $100 billion, 30-year, sole source engine monopoly for the Joint Strike Fighter to avoid competition in the marketplace.”

    Mackenzie M. Eaglen Research Fellow for National Security, The Heritage Foundation “Congress passed an acquisition reform law that requires competition for all major subsystems, including fighter engines. This engine program would also help to ensure that the U.S. maintains engine competition for future fighter programs including potential sixth-generation aircraft.”

  3. Carole Thorpe February 18, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    You’re certainly free to disagree, Mark. But it’s a big puzzling why the following blog post written by an author named “VA Tea Party Federation” appears on this site echoing my point of view. I think anyone reading this blog and that author’s screen name would naturally presume this is the position of the VTPPF – and likely yours as Chairman by extension:

    F-35 “Alternate Engine” Vote
    by VA Tea Party Federation on February 15, 2011 in Spending Cuts

    Call Your congressman and tell them that in this time of economic fraud/waste/abuse that we don’t need more.

    Much has also been made of the threat of engine-related groundings. In fact, there are no documented instances of fleet-wide groundings in the past 30 years. Such talk is a scare tactic. In addition, an alternate engine won’t help the industrial base. GE is the largest military engine manufacturer with sole-source positions on the F/A-18 and several thousand Black Hawks and Apaches. The majority of suppliers for the F-35 engines are shared by both contractors. It is poor acquisition policy to guarantee business to a robust manufacturer on the basis of a false industrial base argument. Read More

    Let our new Congressmen know that they will be held accountable for their votes on wasteful deficit spending.

    As soon as February 15th Congress will be voting on a continuing resolution that may include continuing wasteful earmark-style funding for an “alternate engine” for the F-35 fighter jet. Despite the fact that both President Bush and President Obama, as well as our military, have been consistent that the military does not want and does not plan to use this engine, Congress continues to waste billions on this special interest project.

    Contact Congressmen Hurt and Rigell to let them know that we will be watching them on this early test of whether they will follow through on their promises to eliminate wasteful spending or whether they will continue doling out money to special interests while making hollow promises.

    Rep. Robert Hurt (VA-05)


    Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02)


  4. Carole Thorpe February 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    To the point, Mark — I understand (as I said in my editorial) that when finances are good, dual competition is the ideal situation and that competion in a free market should produce a lower price, which is a good thing.

    But you know as well as I do that we are on the absolute BRINK of financial collaspe. We don’t have the luxury of business-as-usual anymore. Not for another day. By massive overspending, our government has forfeited the advantage of long term planning that will save us money in the long run.

    It’s too bad for them and us, but there is no more “long run”, Mark. It’s cut drastically, cut it now, and pray to God it will be enough to save us.

    I respect RH, MP, and MB and but they are correct in theory and practice, but ones we can no longer sustain. These are brutally different times and everyone better start thinking differently. And the Tea Parties better toe the line and hold them to it because I believe we’re the last line of defense for America’s survival.

  5. Carole Thorpe February 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    From Rep. Mike Pence (and echoed by the other representatives cited in support of the dual engine program):


    Why do the same people who claim to understand the immediate, sober, dire financial crisis we suffer that will lead to our national collapse still have their heads in the clouds talking about “30 years”?

    Fellow patriots — NEWSFLASH. WE DON’T HAVE THE LUXURY ANYMORE TO DO ANYTHING THAN CUT ALL NON-ESSENTIALLY SPENDING AND LOWER THE NATIONAL DEBT. We’re in the hole, dear Congresspersons, for $14 Trillion now with no end in sight.

    As a side note of curiosity, there are 28 aircraft currently in our military. Why aren’t you funding dual programs for an alternate engine for all of them?

    The history of this particular pork project is well documented and the facts speak for themselves. I respecfully stand by my opinion.

  6. Noah Black February 19, 2011 at 9:20 am

    You’re an excellent writer; no one could question that.

    You’re a Patriot for sure; I have no doubt about that.

    But, whether you are a fiscal conservative or not, you have raised real questions.

    The budget crisis isn’t a two-year problem. It gets worse every year indefinitely unless we do something about it. The F-35 is a 40-year project, and to hand out a monopoly for 40 years would cost us an extra $21 billion or so. The second engine is about 80% complete, and in unbiased testing is rated as 20% more powerful and fuel-efficient. There’s a reason Congressman Hurt and so many other conservatives like Mike Pence and Michelle Bachmann voted to keep the second engine. They did the right thing and I support them.

    Shouldn’t it tell you something that the biggest proponent of killing the second engine was John McCain?

  7. robert e shannon February 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Like so many others the fact that this is another example of the hypocrisy that leads to the endless array of unnecessary spending.should come as no surprise to anyone. Who wants this engine , besides the contractors ? DOD-No Pentagon–No, so why is it even being procured ? We all know why, let’s have as Jerry Lund used to say “some intellectual honesty ” !

    And is anyone surprised by Hurts double talk ? Was he a spending hawk in the GA ?
    A program on Bloomberg today, Intelligent Debate, had a panelist that made the following statement ” Political parties “USE” political movements “. At the State and National level once again the Republican party USED us, exemplified by the conduct exhibited since November. They were really serious about “reining in spending”.
    No they were not. The touted Debt Commission report they were waiting for is now collecting dust along with all of the other reports going back to Reagan and the Grace commission
    They just wanted the TEA Parties enthusiasm and energy, to forget about us and our principles as soon as the Election was over.
    The Republican Party has gotten away with this for 30 years now. It can not even be given the dignity of a “bait and switch ” Even Con men fess up that they snookered you, these folks don’t even try to hide their contempt for us, with the exception of a few months every election cycle.
    I have asked for months that we take the gloves off, run Independent candidates even if it means we bring down an R and give the seat to a D. Is it any wonder attendance at rallies have dwindled ? Last year we had 5-6 x the turnout at the State Capitol than we had last month. Do you think members of the GA looked out their windows and saw that ? Why has attendance dropped off. Why did Hanover County turn out 300 for the Town Hall and Henrico with all of the so called “thousands of members ” turn out 80 people ?
    People are craving for TRUTH, and bold action, and so long as we accept an occassional “pat on the head ” and HEEL when told to our members will lose interest. The turnout in Hanover is a result of the effective job done inflaming peoples passions or as was referred to in a recent e-mail “loudmouths and bomb throwers” I will take the bomb thrower or loud mouth label any day of the week if the choice is loud mouth vs. boot licker.

    At least we can say as we go down in Economic ruin we were the ones with some principles and backbone.
    Bob Shannon .

    • VA Tea Party Federation February 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

      Hurt raises an interesting question when he brings up the reality that Pratt & Whitney spent something to the tune of 100 million to lobby for the killing of the alternate engine. Was this just to protect their interests? or was this to protect a sweetheart deal? The military doesn’t care what stuff costs. They just want it. While the PW engine is fine what competition was done for that engine? Was it a no bid contract or were they the winner of a bid contract. These are questions that were left out of the narrative over the past few weeks.

  8. Scott Patrick February 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    It seems to be a waste of time supporting Mr. Hurt.

    In one six day period Mr. Hurt voted TWICE against the Constitution of the United States. Specifically the 4th Amendment. During the same period of time Mr. Hurt voted TWICE against REPUBLICAN CORE VALUES. Namely “That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing CONSTITUTIONAL limitations..Mr. Hurt did this by voting TWICE to extend three parts of the Patriot Act. Mr. Hurt did not get any message from the Tea Party, he doesn’t even know what a Republican stands for.

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