Pols: Sikorsky Could Keep Heli-Costs in Check

Stafford-based Sikorsky is at the center of the debate in Washington after rival Lockheed Martin has gone way over budget on building a new fleet of helicopters.

Sen. John McCain turned up the heat Monday by bemoaning cost overruns in military procurement. The new fleet of 28 Marine One helicopters are now over budget at $11.2 billion and will cost more than Air Force One.

Early this month, Connecticut’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter requesting detailed info on the overpriced VH-71 helicopter, the Connecticut Post reports.

Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, Rep. Chris Murphy, Rep. John Larson and Rep. Joseph Courtney all requested that the Navy reopen the contract or split production between Lockheed and Sikorsky, the Connecticut Post reported.

Monday, DeLauro stuck up again for the homeboys in Connecticut and suggested that one way to deal with the cost overruns would be to consider rebidding the contract to give Sikorsky another shot at it, the Connecticut Post reports.

The current the White House fleet, which includes 11 Sikorsky VH-3D Sea Kings and 8 VH-60N Black Hawks, some of which have been flying presidents for up to 35 years, the New York Times reports.

Andrew H. Card Jr., chief of staff for the Bush White House, grew exasperated in 2002 by helicopter mechanical problems and instigated the development of an ultramodern replacement, the New York Times reports.

In 2005, the Pentagon awarded a contract Lockheed Martin, which had never built helicopters, reasoning that a three-engine model produced by its British-Italian partner, called the EH-101, provided a useful foundation, the New York Times Reports.

DeLauro has said she believed the Bush administration wanted to reward Britain and Italy for support in Iraq.

“I think this was a way of saying, ‘We understand what you did for us; now we’re trying to do something for you,’ ” she told the New York Times.

Obama said he has already talked to Defense Secretary Robert Gates about reviewing the program and its ballooning costs.

The Navy, which is in charge of overseeing the helicopter program, reported to Congress in January that its price tag had nearly doubled. That notification triggered a formal process mandating the program be re-certified as a national security requirement by senior Pentagon leadership.

The Navy waited nearly a year before formally disclosing the information to lawmakers as it sought to find ways to keep the program within budget. Those efforts failed.

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