Carter on Copters

By Christopher J. Castelli / October 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter says the Defense Department and the White House are still sorting out the requirements for the new presidential helicopter program, which will follow the terminated VH-71 effort.

The key is developing a “set of requirements that one can design around and come up with an affordable and practical solution," he said last night at the Council on Foreign Relations. "And we're working now. I'm working with the White House, who is the customer in this case, to get a more realistic set of requirements than those that underlay the VH-71, because that was the fundamental reason why the program couldn't be executed."

Despite the VH-71 program's termination months ago, President Obama "does need a helicopter, a new helicopter and a new process now of trying to ascertain which of the many needs that the White House has for short-haul transport can be met with a helicopter of a kind that we can actually build," Carter told the audience.

"The problem with the VH-71 was a lot of people think that requirements creep is our principal acquisition problem," he said. "We actually have made every mistake you can imagine, and by no means are our mistakes confined to acquisition creep."

But the VH-71 program "wasn't an example of requirements creep at all," Carter argued. "It was an example of the stubborn persistence in pursuing a set of requirements long after it became obvious that they couldn't be met by any realistic helicopter, certainly no easy derivative of a helicopter already in use."