Washington D.C. – In March 2004, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) publicly urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to give taxpayers the "best bang for the buck" when it comes to defense procurement decisions. ATR\’s commentary was in direct response to heated competition surrounding the highly prestigious Marine One presidential helicopter contract.
Today the Navy announced that it was going to give the taxpayers what they wanted: the best helicopter for the President of the United States. The losing team in the competition, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and their organized labor supporters, aggressively worked to politicize the decision by wrapping themselves in the American Flag – a blatant attempt to root-out their competition. In the end, DoD did the right thing by basing its decision purely on the merits of the competing helicopters, rather than succumbing to the veiled threats of Sikorsky and the unions about the dangers of buying any product that is less than 100% American (overlooking the fact that both products contained some foreign-sourced parts).
ATR is also pleased that the Navy chose an off-the-shelf solution as opposed to a developmental helicopter. Taxpayers benefit when DoD buys proven products already in production, unlike Sikorsky\’s Comanche program, which expended $7 billion over 21 years without producing a single operational aircraft – a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.
The Marine One outcome sends a clear and loud message to Sikorsky and its union friends who work to undermine competition: "Competition is the American way," said Grover Norquist, President of ATR. "Companies that fear competition would be better served by focusing their efforts on improving their products and programs, rather than ducking competition by stirring up political debates with false-patriotic rhetoric such as \’buy American.\’"
The current threshold for American content for U.S. military hardware is 50%. Secretary Rumsfeld and others have successfully staved off efforts to raise the percentage, citing the need to work with allied countries and to procure only the most reliable and effective equipment for our men and women in uniform.
ATR supports a competitive system that awards contracts based on merit, not politics. The Marine One decision is good news for taxpayers and good news for our commander-in-chief: the best helicopter won – as it should have. Rather than protest the decision, Sikorsky and its union surrogates should learn from their defeat. For the sake of the American taxpayers and their President, it is time to start building the new Marine One.