April 1, 2009  

Marine One

President Barack Obama’s willingness to keep the current fleet of Marine helicopters assigned to the president because the current Marine One “seems adequate” is in sharp contrast to the approach one of his predecessors took with respect to the presidential helicopter fleet. One morning on returning to Andrews Air Force Base, President Lyndon Johnson was approached by a Marine sergeant on the tarmac who pointed to a particular helicopter and said, “Mr. President, your helicopter is over there.” LBJ draped a large arm over the Marine’s shoulder and replied, “Son, they are all my helicopters.”

The cost overruns for the proposed new helicopter fleet are far too much for the Navy to continue to pursue the project. These helicopters are not Air Force One. While all of the add-ons and bells and whistles may be justifiable to some at the Pentagon, one has to wonder how much should be put into a platform that is essentially used for very short hops.

In the event that the White House needed to become “airborne,” Air Force One is the platform on which that would happen. Not a helicopter.

Roland Nicholson Jr.

Former Army officer

Stockbridge, Mass.