The Navy's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The Navy's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Credit: AP/Lockheed Martin

When the secretary of defense and his military leaders battle to kill a weapons program, the project likely isn't crucial.

That's why the defeat in the House of Representatives of funding for an alternate engine of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter last week, unwanted by the military, was a triumph of reason over politics as usual. Credit must go to some of the new Republican representatives, mostly tea partyers, who led the defeat of the funding. Ending the program would save $450 million next year and $3 billion after that.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have tried to defund development of the alternate engines, made by General Electric and Rolls-Royce in Indiana and Ohio. They've been defeated by members from those states who cadged enough votes to keep the money flowing.

It's heartening to see these newcomers fight the establishment, particularly because House Speaker John Boehner, himself of Ohio, was fighting desperately to keep the program alive.

The defeat occurred as the House debated cutting spending $61 billion through the end of the fiscal year. The F-35 funding could be reinstated later, albeit not easily.

It's still Washington though, not utopia. All nine new Republicans from Ohio and Indiana voted to keep the engines in production.

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