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Sat, Jun 20, 2009

Another Twist In VH-71 Saga

HASC Trying To Salvage Part Of The Program

It's the orphan helicopter program. The President and the Defence Department have both said the don't want the VH-71, but the House Armed Services Committee is still trying to breath life into the aircraft that was to have become Marine One. DoD had originally planned to buy 23 aircraft in what was called "Increment 1"

But soaring costs and long delays caused Defense Secretary Robert Gates to end the program. He said the aircraft no longer met the necessary requirements, and would not be in service long enough to justify building them. In the Defense Authorization Bill passed this week by the committee, $85 million was allocated to basically shut down the program, and direct contractors to start designing a new aircraft designated "VXX".

But Congressional Quarter is reporting that in that bill (HR 2647)is language that "strongly suggests" that the Pentagon go ahead and buy more "Increment 1" helicopters. Members and aides said Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) requested that the report include:“The committee notes that this approach will leverage the investment already made by the taxpayer in developing a helicopter that would meet all normal requirements of the President.”

Lockheed Martin is a major contributor to Representative Bartlett, CQ reports.

Still, other committee members say the bill honors both the President's and DoD request to do away with the embattled helicopter. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, who chairs the relevant subcommittee for the project, says the language has no real meaning when it comes to allocating money. “We both know the difference between ‘directs’ and ‘strongly recommends,’ ” Taylor said. He said President Obama has no objections to the helicopters currently serving as "Marine One" when he is on board.

FMI: http://armedservices.house.gov/

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