By Roxana Tiron
Posted: 02/23/09 04:56 PM [ET]
President Barack Obama said on Monday that he asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to do a "thorough" review of the new presidential helicopter program that has doubled in cost over the last three years.
The new presidential helicopter is designed to ferry the president on shorter trips — oftentimes from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. It would be equipped with a protected communications suite and advanced navigation systems, as well as a kitchen and a bathroom.
The estimated price of the chopper program, built by Lockheed Martin and its European partner, AgustaWestland, has almost doubled over the last three years, from $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion.
The amenities on the new choppers would be closer to Air Force One than the 30-year-old Marine One helicopters they would replace. The Navy runs the Marine One program. The Navy formally informed Congress in late January that the new presidential helicopter now in development is significantly over budget.
"The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me," Obama said at the White House summit on fiscal responsibility, adding in jest, "obviously I did not have a helicopter before."
Obama heeded a call from his former presidential rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services panel, to stem the cost overruns in many Defense Department programs with the presidential chopper just as an example.
"Your helicopter is going to cost as much as Air Force One," McCain told the president during the open session of the summit.