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F-35 jet a waste of taxpayers' dollars, say McCain, Gates

F-35 jet: Defense Sec. Robert Gates, the Pentagon, the White House and Sen. John McCain all say development of a second F-35 jet engine is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

By Andrea Shalal-EsaReuters / February 17, 2011

An F- 35 fighter jet simulator in Tukwila, Wash. Defense Sec. Robert Gates, the Pentagon, the White House and Sen. John McCain have asked the Senate to eliminate funding for the F-35 jet engine program.

Elaine Thompson/AP/File

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged U.S. senators on Thursday to join the U.S. House of Representatives in eliminating funding for a second engine for the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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The Pentagon scored a victory on Wednesday in its five-year battle to kill that program when the House voted 233 to 198 to eliminate $450 million in fiscal 2011 funding for the engine being developed by General Electric Co (GE.N) and Britain's Rolls-Royce Plc (RR.L) as an alternate to an engine built by United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) unit Pratt & Whitney.

Gates welcomed the vote on the amendment and said he hoped the Senate would support the move by House lawmakers.

"I also would express the hope that the Senate will continue to reject the unnecessary extra engine for the F-35 as it did the last time the Senate spoke to this issue, in 2009," Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Defense Department has tried to kill the program since 2007, but Republican and Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly added funding for it back into the defense budget.

While the Obama administration welcomed the House vote on the second engine amendment, the issue is far from settled.

The White House has issued a veto threat against the overall bill, which would cut about $61.5 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget, and Senate Democrats have sharply criticized the bill.

"This is far from done," said a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee, whose Republican chairman, Howard McKeon, backed continued work on the GE-Rolls engine.

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