Presidential chopper spending

NY Times:


The administration’s plan to halt the $13 billion helicopter program, announced this month, will leave the government with little to show for the $3.2 billion it has spent since the Bush administration set out to create a futuristic craft that could fend off terrorist attacks and resist the electromagnetic effects of a nuclear blast.

Critics say the Pentagon would also spend at least $200 million in termination fees and perhaps hundreds of millions to extend the life of today’s aging fleet. As a result, several influential lawmakers and defense analysts are now calling for a compromise that would salvage a simpler version of the helicopter that is already being tested.

They say it could be a more palatable alternative in tough economic times than seeking new bids for a more advanced craft, which has proved difficult to develop.

“The real question is how much does the president need, and what will it cost to do that,” said David J. Berteau, who has studied the helicopter program as a member of a Defense Science Board task force. He said he had no doubt that the simpler version of the new helicopter, the VH-71, would be a big improvement over today’s 30- to 35-year-old fleet in helping the president “survive a crisis and operate within it.”

Others say that unless the White House reduces the intricate security requirements that have led to a doubling in the price of the program, there is no assurance that the government will be able to control the costs any better in a new bidding.

They should look at converting some Osprey orders into a Presidential transport. It is faster and even more maneuverable than the new one under consideration and its safety issues appear to be resolved. There is still the issue of the equipment, but I think most of it can be transferred to the new craft.


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