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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 8, 2009

SCHUMER LEADS SENATE FIGHT TO SAVE PRESIDENTIAL HELICOPTER PROGRAM


Proceeding With Increment One Compromise Will Produce Safer, Better Copter, Avoid Wasting $3.2 Billion Taxpayer Investment And Save Jobs

Inclusion In Senate Funding Bill Would Save Program; President's Budget Is Non Binding

Hundreds of Jobs In Southern Tier Are On The Line

Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, in a letter to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, urged that the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter program receive continued funding in the FY2010 appropriations bill.  Inclusion in the budget would allow the project to continue, preserving 800 jobs at the Lockheed Martin facility in Owego.  Schumer argued that continuing with increment I is the most sensible choice, as it would avoid wasting the $3.2 billion in tax payer money already invested in the program.  Cancelling the program would not only allow the money already invested to go to waste, but could potentially result in costly termination fees and spending additional funds to extend the life of the President's current fleet of aging helicopters, which have been flown for more than three decades.
                                                                         
The appropriations bill that Congress passes, once it is signed by the President, ultimately determines what programs are funded.  The President’s budget, released yesterday, is the administration’s suggestion to Congress, but is not binding.
 
“Cancelling the Presidential Helicopter program, after already investing more than $3 billion of tax payer money, would be penny wise and pound foolish, especially when there is a reasonable, affordable compromise – continuing with Increment I,” said Schumer.  “Congress has the ultimate authority to determine what programs are funded, and I will fight to make sure the Presidential Helicopter program is included because, post 9-11 we need a better way to protect the president and high government officials and proceeding with Increment I can accomplish this faster -- and I believe more affordably -- than starting the whole thing from scratch.”
 
Schumer has been a long time supporter of the presidential helicopter program.  He lobbied then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to help Lockheed Martin secure the contract for the program in 2005, and has been leading the fight to preserve the recently threatened program.  He has called Defense Secretary Robert Gates and argued in favor of encouraging Increment I, and has been persistently and aggressively lobbying White House officials to save the program.  Today, Senator Schumer began the fight to save the program in the Senate.
 
The current fleet of helicopters used by the president, cabinet officers and visiting heads of state do not posses the safety and survivability capabilities the new Increment I helicopters would have. Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in 2005 to design and deliver a new Presidential Helicopter to address critical capabilities gaps highlighted by the 9/11 attack on the United States. This program was originally split into two “increments”; Increment I helicopters were designed for initial operational capability (IOC) in 2010. Increment II helicopters were planned for IOC in 2017.  However, Lockheed Martin has assured Members of Congress that they can deliver on time and on budget if they can deliver all 19 helicopters as Increment I.
 
The cost to complete Increment I and to replace the entire fleet of 19 aircraft with VH-71A aircraft is approximately $3.8 billion. This leverages the investment of approximately $3.2 billion the government has invested to develop and build the initial production of VH-71A aircraft. A fleet of VH-71A aircraft is a low risk and cost effective solution. All four test aircraft and five production aircraft are built. By completing Increment I, Lockheed Martin will avoid the expensive R & D cost of Increment II.
 
A full copy of the letter is below
 
 
The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee
S-131 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
 
The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
S-146A Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
 
      Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran:
 
As you work on drafting language for FY2010 appropriations, we encourage you to include funding for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter program.  This critical investment will serve to ensure that the $3.2 billion dollars already invested by U.S. taxpayers will not be wasted, the president and high government officials will have the safest helicopter available, and numerous workers around the country will keep their jobs. Additionally, if this program is eliminated, it would leave the government bereft of any new helicopters after spending $3.2 billion of the taxpayers’ money. Cancelling the program could also potentially result in costly termination fees, and could mean spending additional funds to extend the life of the President's current fleet of aging helicopters which have been flown for more than three decades.
 
The current fleet of helicopters used by the president, cabinet officers and visiting heads of state do not possess the safety and survivability capabilities the new aircraft will have. Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in 2005 to design and deliver a new Presidential Helicopter to address critical capabilities gaps highlighted by the 9/11 attack on the United States. This program was originally split into two “increments”; Increment I helicopters were designed for initial operational capability (IOC) in 2010. Increment II helicopters were planned for IOC in 2017.  However, Lockheed Martin has assured Members of Congress that they can deliver on time and on budget if they can deliver all 19 helicopters as Increment I.
 
The cost to complete Increment 1 and to replace the entire fleet of 19 aircraft with VH-71A aircraft is approximately $3.8 billion. This leverages the investment of approximately $3.2 billion the government has invested to develop and build the initial production of VH-71A aircraft. A fleet of VH-71A aircraft is a low risk and cost effective solution. All four test aircraft and five production aircraft are built. By completing Increment I, Lockheed Martin will avoid the expensive R & D cost of Increment II.
 
It has become increasingly important that we not ignore the need for the president to be able to travel in the safest and most secure way possible. The VH-71 is a significantly safer, more secure and more reliable than any aircraft in the current fleet. Unfortunately, without the continued investment in the VH-71 through the Increment I proposal we will fail to provide the president with the safety and security his travel requires, the fiscal accountability our constituents expect of their leaders and the protection of much needed jobs our troubled economy desperately needs.
 
Thank you for your work towards restoring the security of our nation’s leadership and the maintenance of our recovering economy. I urge you to incorporate funding for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter through the Increment 1 proposal as part of FY2010 Appropriations.
 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

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