The prospects for building a new fleet of high-tech presidential helicopters darkened yesterday, after the new commander in chief called the costly Bush administration effort an example of military procurement "gone amok" and said he thinks the existing White House helicopter fleet "seems perfectly adequate."
President Obama's remarks at the opening of a meeting with lawmakers on fiscal responsibility did not rule out finishing the program, now expected to cost more than $11.2 billion, or nearly twice the original estimate. He joked that he has not had a helicopter before, so perhaps "I've been deprived and I -- I didn't know it."
But Obama's disclosure that he had asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to conduct a "thorough review of the helicopter situation" amounted to a shot across the bow of large defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, the helicopter's manufacturer. In recent years, contractors have experienced multiple cost overruns -- totaling $300 billion on the 95 largest military programs, according to the Government Accountability Office -- without incurring substantial penalty.