If the White House and Pentagon have figured out how to fix the interagency process that helped doom the first stab at a new presidential helicopter, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus didn't make it crystal clear this morning.
I asked Mabus who was in charge of the program and he said the Navy has the administrative program lead and Ash Carter coordinates the program for the Pentagon. I pressed him to find out who really has the program lead and about the role of the White House (aka Secret Service working with the WH Military Office) and he paused for a long time. Then he let it lie.
According to the Military Office's website, it: "oversees policy related to WHMO functions and Department of Defense assets and ensures that White House requirements are met with the highest standards of quality... The WHMO units include the White House Communications Agency, Presidential Airlift Group, White House Medical Unit, Camp David, Marine Helicopter Squadron One, Presidential Food Service, and the White House Transportation Agency. To assure proper coordination and integration, the WHMO also includes support elements such as operations; policy, plans, and requirements; administration, information resource management; financial management and comptroller; WHMO counsel; and security."
Let's hope that the program's players know who is really in charge and just don't want to talk about it. Finally, Mabus also said he wished he'd been on the job earlier in the program. "It'd be a lot easier if Id been around," he said, smiling. Perhaps head banging was needed and he is adept at it?
Meanwhile, it may seem an unlikely choice but Bell Helicopter and Boeing say they are likely players in the presidential helicopter competition. They told Defense Daily that they are "preparing a response to the RFI request with a VV-22 solution."
Imagine the sight of a V-22 swooping down to the White House lawn with those enormous blades. Great advertising for the capability. After all, if the White House deems it safe enough to carry the president then it must be ready for prime time, anywhere and any time.