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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.

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He said the money stripped from the engine program would go to deficit reduction, not back to the Pentagon, just as Gates was warning lawmakers that the Pentagon faced a crisis if it did not receive additional funds for the rest of fiscal 2011.

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Senator Carl Levin, the committee's chairman, and Daniel Inouye, chairman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, have long supported funding for the GE-Rolls engine, arguing that maintaining competition would save money in the long run.

Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, backs the Pentagon's effort to scrap the alternate engine, and said he remains deeply concerned about the overall health of the F-35 program given cost increases and schedule delays in recent years.

"It has been an incredible waste of the taxpayers' dollar and it hurts the credibility of our acquisition process, our defense industry," McCain said at the hearing. "It reinforces the view of some of us that the military-industrial- congressional complex that President Eisenhower warned us about is alive and well."

In his prepared remarks, Gates said the program has received special scrutiny given its huge cost and central importance to replacing the aging fleet of U.S. fighters.

He repeated his threat to cancel the short-takeoff model of the fighter that is being built for the Marine Corps.

Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that decoupling work in the short-takeoff variant would allow even quicker work on the Navy and Air Force variants.

"That puts us in a better position to develop the Air Force and Navy versions sooner," Mullen told the committee.

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter on Wednesday said he remained concerned about cost growth on the F-35 program, and was keeping close tabs on the program.

"I continue to regard the projected acquisition costs and sustainment costs for the Joint Strike Fighter as too high," Carter told a conference sponsored by Aviation Week.

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