Lawmaker Says White House Erred On Copter Cuts

Military halted production of heavily over-budget VH-71 helicopter program at White House's request, but now Navy is reviewing options to restart the process.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The chairman of a powerful House subcommittee that funds the military said Wednesday he hopes at least some of the $3.2 billion spent for a new fleet of presidential helicopters can be salvaged.

The military stopped production of the heavily over-budget VH-71 helicopter program, estimated to now cost $13 billion, at the White House's request. The Navy is reviewing options to restart the process.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., told defense writers that he and other lawmakers are trying to persuade the administration to use at least some of what's already been spent. Murtha said he thinks the White House was responding to bad publicity about the project, but that it made a decision that doesn't make sense financially.

Murtha said: "$3.2 billion spent on the VH-71 and we get nothing out of it? That's unacceptable."

The new fleet was ordered by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of security concerns. As new requirements were added, the project became six years behind schedule and the price tag of the heavily equipped helicopters doubled to $13 billion.

Nine of the presidential helicopters out of a planned fleet of 28 have been delivered so far to the Navy.

In May, the military halted production of the helicopters at the Lockheed Martin helicopter plant in Owego, N.Y.

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