President Obama Once Expressed Concern About Marine One Costs

At the time, development of new helicopters was plagued by cost overruns.

ByABC News
December 6, 2016, 3:12 PM

— -- Donald Trump isn't the first to complain about the price of a presidential air fleet.

Back in 2009, President Obama expressed concerns about cost overruns for a new set of presidential helicopters. At the time, the Pentagon's contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop a new fleet of helicopters, which are dubbed Marine One when the president is aboard and also shuttle other government officials, had reached an estimated $11.2 billion --- nearly twice the original $6.1 billion estimate.

The topic has come to the forefront again after President-elect Donald Trump tweeted today that the government should cancel its order with Boeing for a new Air Force One, citing cost estimates of the project.

At a Fiscal Responsibility Summit with the president in 2009, Sen. John McCain brought up the skyrocketing cost of the presidential helicopters.

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

President Obama replied: "By the way, 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."

"It is an -- an example of the procurement process gone amok, and -- and we're going to have to fix it," he added.

When the president made his remarks, the Pentagon had already initiated an automatic review of the program because the expected costs exceeded more than 50 percent of the original target price. Three months later, the Pentagon ordered Lockheed Martin Corp. to halt its work on the fleet. The government had already spent more than $3 billion on the aircraft when the work on the contract was stopped, according to reports at the time,

In 2014, the Navy awarded Sikorsky Aircraft, now owned by Lockheed Martin, a $1.24 billion contract to build a new fleet of VH-92A, which will replace the current helicopter fleet used by President Obama and other government officials. Lockheed says it will produce 21 operational and two test aircraft with full production expected to conclude in 2023.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest argued today that the Obama administration did not cancel the Marine One program entirely.

"That Marine One project was one that was further in development, and it was clear that the expected cost was much greater than originally expected and that was based on how far the project had advanced at that point. Our country was also in rather historically difficult circumstance," Earnest told reporters today on Air Force One.

"It wasn't a situation where President Obama entirely cancelled a program. He said the way it has operated so far is too expensive so he asked the professionals at the Department of Defense to go back, re-initiate the program, and see if they could get the cost projections under control," Earnest added.

"I expect that that effective management of that program will result in a new presidential helicopter that President-elect Donald Trump will be glad he has," he said.

ABC News' Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report

Related Topics