Saturday, January 29, 2005

Outsourcing Marine One

We don't need no stinking American helicopter to fly the President:

In selecting Lockheed, which will receive $1.7 billion initially to begin the program, the Pentagon signaled a new openness to foreign partners on sensitive military tasks. By doing so, it also rewarded Britain and Italy, two of the United States’ staunchest allies in the Iraq War.

The helicopter fleet, which will be ready in 2009, will be built by a joint venture of Lockheed and AgustaWestland, a British-Italian venture that designed much of the helicopter and will make about a third of it.

John Young, the assistant Navy secretary who made the announcement, argued that politics played no role in the selection. But it was immediately denounced as “outrageously wrong” by Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, who lobbied strongly for Sikorsky to continue building the White House’s helicopters, a role that dates back to the Eisenhower era. Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies, is based in Connecticut.

New York’s Congressional delegation, by contrast, lined up with the Lockheed group, supporting it because some of the work will be done at a new Lockheed plant in upstate New York.

The $6.1 billion contract — $3.6 billion for the fleet of 23 helicopters and the rest for research and development — is far from the Pentagon’s largest. But it is full of symbolic value and was seen as a critical test of the Pentagon’s willingness to do business with foreign military companies.

It's also mindbending that all of 23 helicopters are going to cost $6.1 billion. Payola to keep Britain and Italy in the Coalition of the Deluded is pretty damned expensive (considering that this is an existing helicopter already in service with the Royal Navy and other European militaries, the money for R&D is obvious payola).

Read the whole thing. Not pretty.

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