Weapons-maker Buys Media Ads Asking Public to Lobby for Pentagon Contract

May 25th, 2010 - by admin

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War – 2010-05-25 23:51:00

The F-136 Ads:
Corporation Buys Media Ads Asking Public to Lobby Washington for Lucrative Jet Engine Contract

SAN FRANCISCO (May 25, 2010) — As California approaches the June primary elections, there is a disturbing new campaign ad being broadcast over the airways.

It features the now-familiar, earnest baritone dripping with sinister intonations. It directs attention to an evil, corrupt force that is out to deceive the citizenry and steal millions of taxpayer dollars. It raises the specter of conspiracy, incompetence and cost overruns. But the ads aren’t directed at savaging the reputation of a gubernatorial candidate. The enemy targeted by these advocacy ads is not a politician or even a voter initiative. It is Boeing, one of the country’s largest “defense” contractors.

This very unusual ad sounds like the kind of ad an anti-war group might have written — if an anti-war group every had the kind of media budget needed to finance such a media blitz. But the ad is not the work of a peace group. It’s the work of a pair of rival weapons makers — General Electric and Rolls Royce (GERR).

The ads claim to be interested in saving taxpayers’ money by blocking further expenditures on a Pentagon boondoggle. But the aim is clearly to wrest hundreds of millions of federal dollars from one contractor and shift it into the pockets of GERR.

The battle over which corporations would benefit from the pork in the Pentagon’s Weapons budget heated up this week with a broadcast on ABC Evening News — investigative report Brian Ross’ report: “A $3 Billion Government Boondoggle?” (See the ABC News report below.)

When the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the same “right” to spend money on political campaigns and advertising as living citizens, civil libertarians could only wonder at the damage the ruling would wreak on the democratic process. This “advocacy ad” by a powerful weapons-maker is an early sign of the dangerous distortions that we can expect to encounter now that corporations are defined as “legal persons” and paid commercial propaganda is defined as “free speech.”

Here is the text of GERR’s ad, calling on real people to become unpaid lobbyists for a corporate cause:

”Monopoly Is Not a Game” — Radio Advertisement

Monopoly is not a game. With competition everyone wins.

GE and Rolls-Royce have built the F136 engine to power America’s next fighter jet, the Joint Strike Fighter. Without this engine, Congress would be handing a $100 billion sole-source monopoly to a single contractor with $2.6 billion in cost overruns already.

According to the Government Accountability Office, with the F136 engine, we could save at least $20 billion over the life of the JSF program.

A $3 Billion Government Boondoggle?
Congress Pushes Fighter Jet Engine That Military Says it Doesn’t Want or Need

Matthew Mosk & Brian Ross

NEW YORK (May 21, 2010) — President Obama says Congress has sunk billions into a military jet engine that the Defense Department says it doesn’t want or need, and now the two branches are headed for a showdown over a push by Congressional leaders to spend $3 billion more on the project over the next six years.

“The Bush administration opposed this engine. The Obama administration opposes it. We have recommended for several years now against funding this engine, considering it a waste of money,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters this week. “To argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste & frankly, I don’t track the logic.”

At issue is the engine for the aircraft known as the Joint Strike Fighter, an all-purpose military jet that is expected to become the backbone of American air supremacy for a generation. The fighter already has an engine built by Pratt & Whitney and in use as the jet is being tested. Some members of Congress want to pay General Electric and Rolls-Royce to develop a second one. ABC News chief investigative reporter Brian Ross will have more on the allegations of wasteful spending tonight in a report on World News with Diane Sawyer.

“It started off with an earmark that was placed into a defense bill years ago,” said Laura Peterson, who has been tracking the project for the nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The money involved is not insubstantial. By some estimates, Congress has paid $3 billion to GE and Rolls-Royce since first setting aside money for a second engine in the mid-1990s, and it will take close to $3 billion more to have the engines tested, proven and in full production.

And top military brass say they don’t want or need it. One navy admiral told reporters it made no sense to try and carry spare parts two separate engines on an aircraft carrier. “Space is at a premium,” Adm. Gary Roughead said.

So why is Congress pushing it?

Supporters of the second engine say that with a project of this scale, bringing in a second contractor to build an alternate engine for the fighter jet could actually wind up saving money in the long term. Having two companies compete to put their engines in the plane creates competition, and that forces both contractors to work faster and cheaper, said Rep. Adam Smith, D.-Wash., chairman of the key House Armed Services Committee subcommittee that has reviewed the contract.

Smith pointed out that an independent review by the Government Accountability Office found that over the life of the project, competition could cut the cost of the engine by more than 20 percent and is similar to an approach used successfully in the development of the F-16 a generation ago.

“This is a policy call, and the policy call is competition works,” Smith said.

Analysts with the House Armed Services Committee also point out that there could be a security benefit from having a second contractor. If the Pratt & Whitney engine proves unreliable, the military could find itself reliant on a single, critical jet fighter that it can’t get off the ground. Having a second engine is “critical to the operational security of our fighter fleet, not to mention a very worthwhile insurance policy for future repairs that may be necessary when we’re working off just one engine,” said Jennifer Kohl, the committee’s spokeswoman, in an email to ABC News.

But Peterson said she believes something else is also driving congressional interest in having GE and Rolls-Royce duplicate work already being done by Pratt & Whitney.

“It has been really promoted by lawmakers from the states where GE and Rolls Royce have their production plants,” she said. “National security is too important to become another jobs program. And that is how Congress is treating this.”

Generally, that is true. Key figures pushing the second engine have included Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, Sens. John F. Kerry (D) and Scott Brown (R), both of Massachusetts, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Rep. Ike Skelton, (D-Mo.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressional leaders from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Massachusetts have all lobbied aggressively to make sure there was funding for the GE-Rolls-Royce engine, even as successive administrations have pushed harder and harder to kill off a project they consider duplicative.

When President Obama took office, he began including the engine in a short list of costly defense projects that he considered wasteful and unnecessary. In a speech on government waste in 2009, Obama singled out the engine for ridicule.

“The Defense Department is already pleased with the engine it has,” Obama said. “The engine it has works. The Pentagon does not want and does not plan to use the alternative version. That’s why the Pentagon stopped requesting this funding two years ago. Yet it’s still being funded.”

Congressional supporters of the plane have pushed back. Earlier this week, the House Armed Services Committee included the next $485 million installment for the GE-Rolls-Royce engine in their defense authorization package. The measure is expected to come to the House floor for a vote next week.

Lobbying on the hill has been fierce on both sides. GE has three former U.S. Senators pushing the cause for them, and a review by the Center for Responsive politics showed the three main companies involved in the engine wars have spent more than $60 million on lobbyists over the past 2 ½ years. GE has also launched an advertising campaign to decry the notion of giving one defense contractor a monopoly over the engine’s production.

GE spokesman Rick Kennedy told ABC News that he believes it is the job of Congress to take the long view of the program and recognize that short term costs may be high, but long term savings more than make it worthwhile.

“You know we have been reinstating year after year after year, in the budget, because the case for competition is simply too compelling for a program this size,” Kennedy said. “For that reason we feel like we’re standing on the side of the angels.”

That’s not what Gates believes. “Only in Washington does a proposal where everybody wins get considered a competition.”

Copyright © 2010 ABC News Internet Ventures

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

More from GERR’s F-136.com Web Site

DOD Buzz: Hill Rips ABC’s F136 Story
May 24, 2010

“It’s not often those people who still watch network news are treated to a story about the weapons America buys, so when ABC’s flagship news program broadcast a story about the second engine program for the Joint Strike fighter most of us who watch these things every day took note. You’ll get a general idea of the story’s bent from its title: “Pentagon Chokes on Pork.” At least one person on Capitol Hill in particular took note, and was not happy.”

ABC World News Interview with Rick Kennedy
May 20, 2010

ABC recently sought our views on the Joint Strike Fighter engine debate, views that were largely ignored in the broadcast of May 20, 2010. We’d like you to see the full story, given only 3 seconds of that interview were used in the broadcast.

Read our response to ABC News

Excerpt from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011: House Armed Services Committee Markup
May 19, 2010

Other commendable initiatives in this mark include provisions that make significant contributions to the National Guard and Reserve Equipment account and fund the F136 alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.
— US Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.)
Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee

House Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs Hearing
Defense Acquisitions: One Year After Reform

May 19, 2010

Pentagon confirms that there has never been a competition on the JSF engines

Mr. Sullivan: I do. I think that you may be correct. I don’t think that there was a competition on the Joint Strike Fighter for the engine. I think the competition was at the prime contractor level and GE happened to be a part of that team but they never competed the engine.

Mr. Roth: That’s true. I won’t dispute that. I meant the program in general. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah I agree with it.

— Mr. Mike Sullivan, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, United States Government Accountability Office and Mr. John Roth, Deputy Comptroller for Program/Budget, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) answer a question as to whether or not a competition for the F-35 propulsion system ever occurred.

Excerpts from the House Armed Services Committee Hearing
May 19, 2010

…The Subcommittee remains concerned that the Pentagon believes a sole-source contract for the engine for this aircraft is appropriate even though the Pentagon’s own study on F-35 engine options indicated it would cost no more to reduce operational risk and achieve the benefits of a competitive engine program, than to fund a sole-source engine program…

Online Media Kit
Keep up the support for F136: Contact your member of Congress today-
6 hours ago via TweetDeck

Key Rep./Dem. House defense acquisition leaders to colleagues: “support competitive engine” http://bit.ly/deL3I9 8 hours ago via TweetDeck

House: “Forcing contractors to compete for Defense [Dept.] programs works much better than sole source contracting” http://bit.ly/bzRKT1 10 hours ago via TweetDeck

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Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.