In an article in CQ Politics last week, DOD, administration, and congressional officials are quoted questioning the burgeoning costs and future of the new Presidential VH-71 Marine One replacement. The helicopter program, with a current price of over $400 million each for 28 copies, was instituted in its current form in the days after September 11th, 2001 as a way for the President to monitor and control national security activities from ther air; effectively a helicopter version Air Force One.
The new aircraft and its cost are coming under increased scrutiny in Congress and the Obama administration. The new Marine One will not be built by the military's traditional helicopter supplier, Sikorsky, leading to calls for a rebidding by Congressional Representatives of states with major helicopter supplier base facilities - such as Connecticut. The mission creep, including the addition of new communication technologies and capabilities are causing the White House to clash headfirst with Secretary Gates' and Administration calls for a rationalization of the defense budget. This is occurring in a compressed time-frame where Gates must certify the program, because of cost overruns, within 120 days of the transmission of the FY2010 DOD budget to Congress. The long-term future of this program may hinge on decisions made in the next 4-5 months.