In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates again repeated his (and President Barack Obama's) opposition to "wasteful" defense spending such as the continuation of the C-17 production line and money for the joint strike fighter alternate engine. But he added a new twist too: Don't assume that the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal and other positives in the budget bills will be enough to save them.
"It would be a very serious mistake to believe the president would accept these unneeded programs simply because the authorization or appropriations legislation includes other provisions important to him and to this administration," he said.
Of course, lawmakers who support the alternate engine are already banking on just that. Last month, the House added $485 million to the defense authorization bill to continue work on the second engine, the fourth year in a row they've gone against Pentagon recommendations on that item. Gates said whatever benefits that may come from an alternate engine "are more than offset by excess costs, complexity and associated risks" of the project.
Meanwhile, gay rights groups are quietly worried at losing the hard-fought battles for language promising a delayed repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law because of the ongoing funding fight. The Senate is expected to debate that language later this month, and does not have the alternate engine money in its current draft of the budget bills.