program has been plagued since the
beginning by rising costs, design
changes and disagreements over
performance requirements between
the contractor, the Navy and the
White House Military Office.
The program “is a good example
of what happens when you have
unrestrained requirements,” said
Robert Work, a Navy analyst at the
Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Work predicated that, at a minimum, the Obama administration
will force a “good scrub of the
requirements” to get the price
down. He added that he wasn’t surprised the cost increases were worse
than initially projected.
“The problem always gets worse
than you think,” he said. “Once a
program is in trouble, it’s really difficult to get it righted.”
At a time when the economy continues to falter and fiscal austerity
and budgetary belt-tightening quickly become the marks of responsible
governance, program officials at
Lockheed Martin and within the
Navy should brace for big changes.
“This program is not going to
survive … not in the current
form,” a congressional aide tracking the program predicted recently.
“There will have to be some kind
The presidential helicopter is
not alone in its problems. Indeed,
the Government Accountability
Office, the investigative arm of
Congress, reported last year that
cost overruns on the Defense
Department’s 95 largest programs
totaled nearly $300 billion.
Obama and key lawmakers are
making it a priority to prevent similar cost hikes in the future.
McCain has introduced a bill
with Senate Armed Services
Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.,
aimed at reforming the Pentagon’s
weapons-buying process. And the
House Armed Services Committee
has created a seven-member bipar-
“The United States cannot expect to eliminate national
security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything. The Department of Defense must
set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs.”
Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
From his article “A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age.”
“When a program is that late, that much overbudget, it’s our
job to look into what’s going on. If we can find a better value
for the nation then we need to do so.”
U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss.
Chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces
On the VH-71 presidential helicopter replacement program.
tisan panel to explore the issue and
While the current stabs at acquisition reform may be too late for the
VH-71 and other ongoing programs
that are plagued with problems, it is
clear there is little appetite on both
ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for
what is perceived as unrestrained
Obama Wants $663.7B
For Defense, Wars in 2010
The Obama administration has
requested $663.7 billion to cover
both the Pentagon’s day-to-day operations and war costs in fiscal 2010.
While the details of what’s in the
budget are not expected until later
this month, administration officials
already have made it clear they
intend to do away with emergency
appropriations that have become a
mainstay for the Defense Department after seven years of war.
The total for defense spending
includes $130 billion to pay for
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,
a figure the administration does not
want tagged “emergency” spending. Such a move would make war
spending subject to the annual
defense authorization process in
addition to appropriations.
Meanwhile, the budget includes
$533.7 billion for the Defense
Department’s base budget, marking
a $20 billion increase over this
year’s spending. However, that figure includes funding for some programs that previously have been
tagged as war spending.
The administration also has
requested $75.5 billion to pay for
the wars for the remainder of this
fiscal year. Congress already has
approved $66 billion for war costs
If the latest request is approved, it
would bring the total war bill for
2009 to $141.5 billion, or $45 billion
below last year’s level.
House Armed Services seapower and
expeditionary forces subcommittee
Chairman Gene Taylor, D-Miss.,