Like a car-owner getting another 100,0000 out of the old rust-bucket, President Barack Obama says maybe he can do without a new Marine One.
Except, in this case, the current fleet of presidential helicopters is pretty shiny, but the cost of their replacement is running at more than $11 billion.
"I think we're going to have to fix it," Obama said of the inflated helicopter procurement in closing remarks at a "fiscal responsibility'' summit at the White House today. The current iteration of Marine One, he suggested, is "perfectly adequate.''
The cost of replacing the fleet of white-top choppers that serve the president in Washington, on the road and abroad - with the government eyeing the purchase of as many as 28 new helicopters - has gone sky-high. It has jumped from $6.8 billion to $11.2 billion, according to the Defense Department.
Obama called the contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. "an example of the procurement process gone amok," and suggested he doesn't need a new aircraft.
The subject of the chopper came up when someone who would have loved to claim the presidential seat in Marine One asked about it today:
"Your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One,'' Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Obama at the summit. "Mr. President, we are going to have to make some tough decisions about not only what we procure but how we procure it. ''
"Well John, I mean, this,'' Obama replied. "This is going to be one of our highest priorities. By the way, I've already talked to Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. ...The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,'' he said to laughter. "Of course, I've never had a helicopter before....You know? Maybe, you know -- maybe I've been deprived and I... I didn't know it.
"But I think it is a -- it is a -- an example of the procurement process gone amok. And -- and we're going to have to fix it.''
The estimated cost of each chopper has grown by $124 million, about 50 percent, since the government set out to replace the old fleet of choppers - only the one the president is riding at the time is known as Marine One.
The fleet has some United Technology Sikorskys that are 40 years old.
Lockheed won the contract to build the new model in January 2005. The Pentagon is reviewing a number of programs for possible cancellation or delay as it assembles its 2010 budget. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says Defense Secretary Robert Gates has launched a "very aggressive but very close-hold review process focusing on all programs that are having execution problems."