Murtha Panel Wants More C-17s, Alternate Engine

In its markup of the 2010 defense spending bill, the House Appropriations defense panel, led by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) not only identified dollars to fund 12 additional F-22 Raptors (see Fueling the F-22 Debate Flames), but also money to continue development of the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 alternate engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The Pentagon has tried unsuccessfully to kill the alternate engine for several years. Murtha’s panel approved a total of $636.3 billion, a decrease of about $3.8 from the Administration request. Among its other provisions, the panel calls for three additional C-17s—lawmakers already had added eight C-17s in the just passed 2009 war supplemental bill—despite the call by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to end production at 205 of the new airlifters. Perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall as lawmakers lined up in protest over the Pentagon’s C-17 plan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz maintains that if Congress adds C-17s then USAF must retire more of its C-5s to keep the strategic airlift balance at a total 316 tails.