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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010 -- (Senate - July 23, 2009)

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Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I rise to join my colleague, Senator Kennedy, in opposing the Lieberman amendment to eliminate funding for the Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine. I disagree with the arguments that were just made by the Senator from Georgia who actually is inaccurate by saying it is going to take away a weapon system from our military at the current time. It doesn't take any weapon system away whatsoever. It simply changes the schedule of production with respect to the C-130s, but all of the C-130s will be built. So no system is taken away. It is important to try to be accurate about what is at stake here.

As does Senator Kennedy and a lot of other people, including Senator Bayh and others, I believe the alternative engine is critical to reduce risks to our forces, to protect against cost overruns, to preserve the U.S. industrial manufacturing base, and to support our international partners. It is a little strange, I might add, to have some of our friends on the other side of the aisle who are usually quick to come up here and support competition in the American marketplace arguing that we shouldn't have competition and that we ought to have a single-source production for engines, where we have already seen that there are problems frequently in those single-source production lines.

I strongly support the second-degree amendment offered by Senator Bayh and Senator Kennedy that would provide more than $156 million for the management reserves of the Joint Strike Fighter Program and more than $280 million for the Marine Corps helicopter fleet. This will allow the Senate to preserve funding for the vital Marine Corps helicopters without eliminating competition for the Joint Strike Fighter's competitive alternative engine program.

Let me say the funding for the Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine has been important to Senator Kennedy for a long period of time. As we all know, he is being treated back in Massachusetts and is not here today, but his statement in support of the amendment he is offering with Senator Bayh has already been put into the Record by Senator Bayh. I wish to simply reference one thing Senator Kennedy has said:

Competition for the Joint Strike Fighter engine has compelling advantages and avoids past pitfalls. Dual-sourcing will build vital operational redundancy into the fleet, avoid a single point of failure for the engine malfunctions and spare part shortages experienced in the past with other fleet-wide groundings. Competition delivers an inherent incentive for manufacturers to absorb and contain cost growth, even as it encourages responsiveness by contractors, continuous product improvement, and innovation.

All of us know that is the way we are most effective at producing all of our goods in this country. We do it through competition. It is that kind of competition that spurs innovation, and it avoids cost overruns. Senator Kennedy is 100 percent accurate in his analysis of this issue, and I hope Senators will weigh his measurement of this based on his years of experience on the Armed Services Committee as well as on the facts regarding this particular engine proposition.

The alternate engine program spreads capability and capacity across the U.S. industrial base. What it does is it ensures the production, maintenance, and availability of critical components so they are not concentrated in the hands of one single producer.

Why does that matter? Well, the current engine for the Joint Strike Fighter has had testing issues. It is simply not appropriate to stand here and suggest that everything is absolutely hunky-dory with the single-source program. The fact is, there have been two engine blade failures within the past 2 years requiring a redesign, remanufacture, and delays in the flight test program. In fact, the engine has yet to even be flight tested in the most stressing flight regime--the vertical landing mode. Those tests have been delayed for up to 2 years, and they are now scheduled to take place in September.

It is precisely that kind of delay that begs for this kind of alternative engine program. In fact, the 2007 Institute of Defense Analysis study concluded:

Competition has the potential to bring benefits in addition to reduced prices, including force readiness, contractor responsiveness, and industrial base breadth.

So I don't believe it is in the best interests of our military to have the major part of the fighter fleet dependent on a single-engine type provided by a single manufacturer. It is simply too risky, and experience tells us it is too risky.

In the 1970s, many of the F-15s and F-16 fleets were grounded as a result of reliability and durability issues because the aircraft were dependent on one engine type. Similarly, the AV-8 Harrier was grounded for 11 months due to engine problems. With over 2,400 F-35s currently planned for procurement and each of the services going to be dependent on one engine and one aircraft type for the vast majority of its capability, it simply doesn't make sense to put all of it into one engine manufacturer--one engine and one producer. We certainly don't want to take the risk of the entire F-35 fleet being grounded. Competition will avoid that potential.

So I ask my colleagues to oppose the Lieberman amendment, support the Bayh-Kennedy amendment to provide additional funding to the Joint Strike Fighter Program and to the Marine Corps helicopter fleet. I believe that is the way we best eliminate risk and best serve the armed services and the needs of this particular aircraft.

Madam President, I reserve the remainder of the time to Senator Bayh. Does the Senator from Ohio wish to speak?

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