January 11, 2013
Credit: Credit: US Army
A senior U.S. Army official on Friday urged industry executives not to push for a bidding competition on a new armed helicopter as the multi-billion-dollar project could be reversed due to budget pressures.
Major General Tim Crosby, who oversees Army aviation programs, said top Army leaders wanted to evaluate the overall situation before endorsing a recommendation from lower level officers to buy new helicopters rather than extending the life of Vietnam-era OH-58 Kiowa Warriors.
“They need to have the opportunity to be able to make decisions based on the entire environment, and we don’t know what that entire environment is yet,” Crosby told reporters after a meeting hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army.
“Let’s don’t rush into a competition ... that we’re going to have to change in six months or maybe in a year,” he told industry and military officials at the conference. “The cut and run mentality will hurt us. We have to maintain a strategic vision of where our branch is going.”
Many helicopter makers were discouraged this week when an Army official said he did not expect a final Pentagon decision on whether to go ahead with a new armed helicopter until spring, which could delay the bidding until 2014.
Crosby told reporters on Friday that briefed senior Army leaders before Christmas and again more recently, and further briefings were planned. He refused to say when he thought top Army leaders would decide whether to proceed with a competition.
Lieutenant General James Barclay, the deputy chief of staff of the Army in charge of the budget, did not address the helicopter issue specifically, but underscored the high level of uncertainty about the budget outlook for the entire Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday ordered the U.S. military services to freeze civilian hiring, delay maintenance work and reduce other spending, acknowledging for the first time that additional cuts - on top of $487 billion already being implemented - were increasingly likely.
Barclay said the Army faced “tighter and tougher times,” even if Congress managed to avert the full brunt of $500 billion in further cuts now slated to start taking effect on March 1.