WASHINGTON — John McCain and Barack Obama vow to reform the nation's defense procurement if elected president, yet neither has taken a firm stand against the skyrocketing cost of a White House perk: the new Marine One helicopter.
Originally carrying a hefty price tag at $6.1 billion, the fleet of 28 helicopters being built to fly the next president is now projected to cost $11.2 billion.
At $400 million apiece, the helicopters far exceed a prime example McCain uses on the campaign trail to rail against congressional pork-barrel spending, a $230-million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. The British have bought the same base model helicopter for $57 million each.
In separate interviews with the Associated Press, the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates pledged to look at the program but stopped short of saying whether it should be canceled. Any review after the next president takes office in January would butt up against the first deliveries of the helicopters, slated for 2010.
McCain labeled the contract growth a "scandal" before asking to revise his assessment "in a more polite way."
He said the program is part of "an out-of-control procurement system that has to be fixed."
Obama said, "I haven't taken a close look at it, but, in principle, it is a lot of money, even in Washington."