October 5th, 2009

desire consequence

Only Engines?

One of the minor flurries in Washington DC right now is a line item in the defense budget an alternate engine for the F-35. Not something I'd care that much about if I wasn't working on that plane. The idea is that having a second company making engines for the plane will provide a back-up against problems and cost savings from competition. Given that both the current and previous administrations have tried to kill that piece of the program it's not that widely held an idea. The case against it is pretty simple--why pay for two designs and production lines when you only need one to get the job done?

So various op-eds are appearing extolling the virtues of competition and offering the historical precedent of the competing F-16 engines. Yes, both companies would have a better incentive to improve on cost and quality as they vie for each year's batch of engines. But everybody offering that argument seems to be just fine with the engines going into a single fighter design produced by one partnership. If competition is such a great thing wouldn't more of it be better? In the absence of those arguments it feels like a typical effort to defense Congressional pork barreling.

I'm not even hoping for someone to question whether it's a good idea for a single plane to replace the F-15, F-16, F-117, F/A-18, A-10, and AV-8.