February 24th, 2009
12:20 PM ET
6 years ago

Gibbs: Obama puts new presidential helicopters on hold

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the President has put on hold an order for a new fleet of presidential helicopters orginally ordered by the previous administration.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the President has put on hold an order for a new fleet of presidential helicopters orginally ordered by the previous administration.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama put on hold an order for a fleet of new helicopters that will cost at least $11 billion, his spokesman told CNN Tuesday.

"The president talked to the secretary of defense, and I think as he said yesterday to Sen. (John) McCain, we don't need any new helicopters at the White House," Robert Gibbs said on CNN's "American Morning."

Asked if that meant the order was being put on hold, Gibbs said: "That's exactly what he talked to the secretary about."

McCain, the Arizona Republican who was Obama's rival for the White House in last year's election, questioned the president about the cost of the new helicopter fleet on Monday.

"Your (proposed new) helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One," the presidential airplane, McCain said. "I don't think that there's any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas ... have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money."

The price tag for the proposed new fleet of 28 helicopters has virtually doubled to more than $11 billion over the last six years. Each helicopter in the fleet would reportedly cost around $400 million.

President Bush put in the order for new high-security presidential helicopters in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The president's helicopter is known as Marine One when he is flying on it.


Obama suggested Monday he would put the order on hold.

"I've already talked to (Defense Secretary Robert) Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me," a smiling Obama said to a room of laughing congressional, corporate and community leaders.

"I think it is ... an example of the procurement process gone amuck, and we're going to have to fix it," he added.


Filed under: Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (235 Responses)
  1. Proud NC Swing Voter

    What a shame that John McCain didn't have the intestinal fortitude to find his voice during the 8 years of the Bush administration, when the helicopter replacement decision was made. He seems to have become a very weak man.

    February 24, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Robin Wagner from ct

    First John McBush need shut up.. With his 7 homes and private JET >>>>>>>>>>JET ..
    Pres . Obama need a helicopter because we need keep him safe.

    February 24, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Dave

    Notice that President Bush ordered the helicopters, not Obama.

    February 24, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Eric

    There is significant evidence out there that says these helicopters were a pay off from George Bush to the Italian Government for creating the false documentation that pointed to Iraq having yellow cake uranium for a nuclear bomb prior to the Iraq invasion. This is GWB corruption at it's best.

    February 24, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Greg in Columbus

    Now Senator McCain, are you going to complain about more problems bush left waiting for Obama to take care of? Since the project was started in 2002

    February 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  6. Ted Harris

    The new helicopter fleet was not only a former President George W. Bush order but the $110-million bird is derived from a European-built AgustaWestland EH101. Which many feel is George's way of repaying the former Prime Minister of UK...Tony Blare...and the Itialian Prime Minister for supporting him in Iraq, since their countries would benefit from this order if it were to go into production. Many also feel that if the builder of the current fleet of helicopters – Sikorsky – were allowed to bid on building a new fleet, that they would be able to build them better and at a lower cost, while still offering top security and communications to the fleet. The media should tell the who story....

    February 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. Bala

    Where was Sen. McCain, when Bush ordered this?

    February 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Leo

    Barack will be fine as long as he doesn't let old man McCain pilot the copter. He'll probably crash it like so many times before. John McCain is disgusting.

    February 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Saser

    Holder is the real coward

    February 24, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    Why are people blaming Obama for the helicopters Bush ordered? Beats me.

    February 24, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Tom Greene

    Why is a fleet of 28 helicopters needed? The president isn't going to need all of them.

    What else are they used for?

    February 24, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  12. KFR

    McCain you lost why can't you just shutup. You so not want to give Obama a chance and it shows over and over. You appear as a a very angry old loser. Did I not see Bush's name mentioned in this article. Without SP you would have had mine and many other votes.

    February 24, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. Alison

    Nice going, Mr. President. Good job keeping your cool when being bombarded by idiotic questions masquerading as "sincere concerns about the taxpayers." And let's just remember who ORDERED those helicopters in the first place???!!!! That one – and I'm not talking about Obama.

    February 24, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Douglas Wilson

    It's nice Obama wants to save the money, but on the other hand, we want him to be safe. If there are security enhancements, maybe a few of them rather than 28 would be wise. And I worry about the age of the present equipment. The first time I saw a Marine One was in 1963, when JFK was president. I sure hope the present ones are not that old.

    February 24, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Brandon

    "Your (proposed new) helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One," the presidential airplane, McCain said.

    and

    President Bush put in the order for new high-security presidential helicopters in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

    corrected: "Former President Bush's Helicopter order, will now cost as much Air Force One"

    Thanks Sen. McCain

    February 24, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Bill

    Now wasn't that nice of Senator McCain to bring up the cost to President Obama. My question to Senator McCain why did he not bring this up to President George W. Bush before the former President approved the order. It is amazing how these Republican Senators can find such Pork now that there is a Dem in the White House.

    I agree this purchase needed to be dropped. My only complaint this purchase should of never been approved by former President George W. Bush.

    February 24, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. Nancy - Houston

    Do we dare think that we just may have an honest-to-goodness honest president this time around who gives a care? Refusing delivery of new helicopters tells me he is at least practical. He has said he will reveal all planned expenditures in the budget, which will be a real change. King Bush sure did not do that. I don't want to get too excited, but I am beginning to be a little hopeful at the prospect of having a president who remembers who hired him and that he can be fired as well.

    February 24, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. betsy

    Good for him, but I'm sure someone will criticize this as well. I find it interesting how quickly people have forgotten the mess he has inherited and seem to blame him for it, including the media. It shows me how fickle we Americans can be.

    February 24, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. Walton

    McCain...is that you talking?? I can barely hear you from the peanut gallery.

    February 24, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. Keith Johnson

    I think McCain would have more credibility on this subject if he had bothered to bring this subject up back when Bush was in office. Otherwise, it appears that he feels that it's ok that a Republican ordered these expensive helicopters and sat and watched the procurement process turn into a billion-dollar sinkhole, yet it's only a real problem that needs to be brought up when a Democrat is president.

    February 24, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  21. Carolyn

    So the Republican president orders the fleet and the Republican senator criticizes the Democratic president (who's been in office one month) about it. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

    February 24, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. vkelly

    Doesn't this guy own more than one house? Pot calling the kettle black to me!

    February 24, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  23. CHANGE.COM

    Protecting the POTUS is not a waste of money. Perhaps the contractor building the new presidential helicopters should look realistically at the actual cost versus the inflated costs that always come with these types of contracts. Trim out the unnecessary costs and complete the job of protecting the POTUS. By the way, this process began under Bush and at that time, McCain had no objections. What a hypocrite!

    February 24, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  24. Tee

    Thanks McCain for calling it out!!

    February 24, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. jummai

    sounds sensible from a reasoning president!

    February 24, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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