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

Gibbs: Obama puts new presidential helicopters on hold

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/24/art.prezchopper0224.gi.jpg caption="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. Chris W, Tampa

    This money and attention given to the Military Industrial Complex needs to be weaned towards a state co-opted Energy Industrial Complex, IT ACTUALLY MAKES MORE SENSE FOR THE SECURITY OF THE COUNTRY! If politicians insist on over stating responses (special helicopters ie 9-11) with strokes of wild spending gestures, how about putting some of that 11 billion towards nuclear fusion R&D- Since the government spent less than a billion on it last year! All the science points towards this source of energy being the only hope for the future yet we're told we can't afford it, but when it comes to the defense industry, the sky's the limit!

    February 24, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. RR

    watch the congressman whose district was supposed to build those copters throw a hissy fit!

    February 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Mari

    President Obama did the right thing! Though I doubt that the far-right will give him credit for being fiscally responsible.

    Let's not forget that the helicopter orders came from Bush!

    February 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  4. Q

    Coming from a government procurement background, this move probably cost the taxpayers a few million dollars. Good one...

    February 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. Justin

    Ah, the fiscal conservate's philosophy: if I buy it, it's necessary, if you buy it, it's pork. So say Palin (tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in per diem), McCain (hundreds of billions of taxpaye and Chinese dollars for Iraq, including no-bid contracts) and Bobby "BJ" Jindal (millions of taxpayer dollars to pay for a 100% raise for Louisiana state legislators). For the first five years and eleven months, no one complained about an 11 billion dollar fleet of helicopters. At least we know McCain hasn't changed. He's still a two-faced, opportunistic snake.

    February 24, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. Dexter Skagway

    One man needs 26 helicoprter that each cost more than Air Force One? Not surprised that "Bush put in the order" for that. Also not surprised that McCain and the republicans did not care until a Democrat got elected.

    Actually, McCain is pretty good as a financial watchdog. Not a bad role for him. This country seems to function better with a Democratic president and a strong Republican opposition.

    I am also glad Obama is talking about reducing the deficit. I hope it is more than just talk, for he has waffled on a lot of his "change" promises.

    February 24, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. Jim Co

    COME ON CNN, you know fully well the fleet of new marine ones are the result of george bush. Get the full comment by mccain. Shame on you.

    February 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. Matthew, Houston, TX

    I was working for one of the companies that was part of the Sikorsky team that bid on (but lost) the new helicopter fleet. The team that won was proposing a helicopter designed from scratch and included a French comapany for the major airframe and engine portions.

    The Sikorsky S-92 was already built and proven to be the safest helicopter ever built and the team included only US based companies. The only reason that anyone could see that Sikorsky did not win was because a rather obscure Texas company was going to design the interior passenger area on the other team.

    Now everyone please carefully read the article before commenting – the new fleet was ordered by the last administration. I think it was rather disingenuous of Senator McCain to 'chastise' President Obama about the fleet, especially since it was shrubbie who ordered it.

    February 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. Jim in Bisbee

    Is John McCain going to blame Obama for everything George W Bush did?

    I think I'll be voting Democratic for the rest of my life if this is what the GOP stands for.

    February 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Dutch/Hampton Roads, VA

    How you like them apples Sen. McCain.

    February 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. Carol

    Mr. McCain's reach across the aisle and extend a hand looked like a slap on the wrist when he questioned President Obama about the new helicopter fleet. How could he have failed to remember this fleet was ordered by HIS Republican President George Bush? Shame on you, Senator McCain!

    February 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  12. get rid of campbell brown

    this is a non-issue. i'm sure it is still a good idea to have the helicopters, but obama placing them on hold will stave of republican criticism. let's move on and talk about real issues.

    February 24, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Dianne

    Senator McCain should have addressed that question to "Dubaya" four years ago, when "Dubaya" placed the order. Where was "Johnny Come Lately" then?

    Out of touch much, Senator McCain?

    February 24, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. the idiot

    This should have been put in the stimulus bill, it actually means jobs, rather than giving money to ACORN as a political payback for their efforts at stealing the election.

    February 24, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. MAD

    It's clear to me that Senator McCain's plan is to object to everything President Obama does for the next 8 years. Here's the joke, President Obama didn't order the new fleet of helicopters. GWB did. He made the Senator look small and petty yesterday when he informed him that he didn't see anything wrong with the current fleet.

    The only thing that makes me sad about all of this is, at this point in time, we really need our President to be focused on core issues. Like helping to fix the economy, keeping the country safe, universal health care and JOBS... He simply doesn't have time to address the petty ignorant issue so many in the Rep. Party are focused on.

    Lastly, a couple of new helicopters is probably in order. He is an "At Risk" President and what he travels in should have the latest technology in order to keep him safe...

    February 24, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  16. GStreet

    It is interesting that this issue is just being brought up. It apparently was not an issue in the previous administration. Looking at the billions of dollars spent by the former administration, and the indifference shown by the Republican congress, I wonder when they awakened to the great waste and abuse occurring in their back yard.

    February 24, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  17. Debi

    McCain does not want to make obvious these helicopters were ordered by the previous administration of “fiscal conservatives”.

    Did McCain question Bush about these expenditures?

    February 24, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. texas teacher

    Thank you, Mr. President! A very fine example of practicing what you preach. We surely never heard such practice in the Bush administration! Thus he was right there along side the Fat Cats who came a beggin' for a federal hand out in 4... count them.. 4 new jets! I'm old, my lingo probably leaves something to be desired. But you know what I mean... 🙂

    February 24, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. The Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    CNN reports that Duke Ellington becomes first African-American on U.S. coin

    The District of Columbia commemorative quarter showing Ellington playing the piano will be introduced by U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy at a news conference Tuesday at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

    So happens that on April 7, 1940, Booker T. Washington became the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp. The first coin to feature an African American was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar that was minted by the United States from 1946 to 1951. He was also depicted on a U.S. Half Dollar from 1951-1954.

    I guess CNN doesn't think that Booker T. Washington was an African-American

    O' well. :-}

    February 24, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  20. Dan, TX

    Who is the manufacturer? Have they already been built? Will the company making them lose millions they have already spent? Or did we already pay for that? Too many questions. I'm all for not ordering them, but don't we need to know more? Do we really save $11 billion? Do people lose their jobs over this?

    February 24, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. KIM

    I think that the president is entitled to these new and improved helicopters. As the years pass technology only gets more advanced. I dont think its too much to ask for the president to have the best of the best for his protection. When it comes to the budget, I dont belive in the presidents safety should subject to cuts

    February 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. AndyL

    Good, Obama needs a new helicopter like the CEO of GM needs a new private jet. Also since the country is broke, he should lead by example and give back his salary. He will make millions after his presidency on the speeches and that the only thing he is good at anyways .

    February 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  23. Patrick

    Like the gazillion dollar toilet, I have a feeling that there is more in this $11 billion price tag than helicopters. Also, if this has been in the pipeline since 2001, I wonder how much of that $11 billion has already been spent.

    February 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  24. Lolly, CO

    Once again Obama has to deal w/ Bush's problem. I like how McAss.Hole says its Obama's copters though, what a maroon ... Elmer go Fudd yourself,.

    February 24, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  25. usa

    hey mcain,

    i lost my house , can i have one of yours???!!!!

    February 24, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
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