24 February 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
US president Barack Obama has called the troubled project to replace the
presidential helicopter fleet as a "procurement process gone amok".
Technical problems have delayed work on a new fleet of 28 "Marine One" helicopters. These are reportedly now expected to cost $11.2 billion (£7.7 billion), estimated to be twice the original price.
The president was speaking during a question and answer session with politicians at the end of his Fiscal Responsibility Summit in Washington DC yesterday. Following a question from former presidential rival and senator John McCain about the "spiralling costs" of the project, Obama promised: "We are going to have to fix it."
McCain told the president the cost overruns meant "your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One". He added that tough decisions were ahead for the new president over what and how the government buys.
Obama said he had spoken to defence secretary Robert Gates about a review of the "helicopter situation" and hinted it could be scrapped altogether. "The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I've never had a helicopter before."
The Obama administration has already set out its intention to reform government purchasing operations. Last month, Peter Orszag, new director of the Office of Management and Budget, pledged to improve the "quality and quantity" of US government buyers and cut "sloppy" spending.