Obama: White House Copters Under Review

President Obama doesn't think he needs a fleet of new helicopters to serve as Marine One.

Discussing the issue of military procurement during the closing session of his White House Summit on Fiscal Responsibility, he called on campaign rival Sen. John McCain, who raised concerns about the skyrocketing costs of the program to build a fleet of 28 new helicopters for presidential use.

The president said he already talked to Defense Secretary Robert Gates about a conducting thorough review of the helicopter situation.

"The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequately to me," said Mr. Obama. "Of course, I've never had a helicopter before. Maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it ," he said to laughter from his audience which included many members of Congress.

He thinks the Marine One contract is "an example of the procurement process gone amok and we're gonna have to fix it."

The Navy awarded a contract in 2005 to Lockheed Martin to build a new generation of 28 helicopters to serve as Marine One - but last week cost overruns forced the Pentagon to issue a stop-work order at the end of 2007.

(CBS)
Last week, CBS News obtained exclusive pictures, seen at left, of the next generation presidential chopper going through a test flight.

The original $6.1-billion program had ballooned to $11.2-billion - which triggered a statute requiring the program be subjected to review. It means the cost the new choppers had soared to over $400-million each - which exceeds the 1990 cost of the 747s now serving as Air Force One.

Mr. Obama is now served by a fleet of Sikorsky VH-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N Black Hawks - but some of them have been in presidential service for over three decades.

It was the Pentagon's intention to replace them with new three-engine helicopters that provided greater range and protection for the Commander-in-Chief.

In his comments today, Mr. Obama made it clear he's happy to keep using the existing fleet of helicopters.

  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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