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Press Release

Taxpayer Group Urges Open Bidding for New Air Force Chopper

September 1, 2011
By Pete Sepp
By Douglas Kellogg

(Alexandria, VA) – Now more than ever, America needs the best value and capability for its defense dollars, which is why competitive bidding for a new Air Force helicopter program makes the most sense. That’s the word from the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a nonpartisan citizen group. Recently NTU reached out to federal leaders urging an open competition for the Common Vertical Lift Support Program (CVLSP), intended to replace aging UH-1N helicopters that perform missions such as patrolling Air Force missile fields and transporting VIPs.

An NTU letter to Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, as well as the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force, and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, noted that “a vigorous CVLSP competition among multiple bidders, under realistically defined mission requirements, will deliver [the] value” that serves the Air Force and taxpayers. 

Earlier this year, an Air Force official stated that for CVLSP, the service might consider invoking the Economy Act of 1932 – designed for “fast-tracking” urgent government purchases – to buy a helicopter model already in the U.S. inventory.  However, NTU contended that doing so “is neither justifiable nor proper” since many near-term solutions from the private sector deserve examination.

Furthermore, supporters of “sole sourcing” for CVLSP claim this route is most cost-effective, yet, skipping an open bidding process makes it impossible to fairly assess how much savings could be achieved. For example, some alternatives might offer savings in hangar facilities, innovative supply systems, and aircrew that could more than offset the advantage of the military’s experience with the sole-source option, the UH-60 – perhaps by billions of dollars. 

Although another Air Force official has since told a Committee in the House of Representatives that CVLSP would likely be competitively-bid, upcoming negotiations over appropriations and deficit-reduction plans prompted NTU to offer its active, vigorous support for this approach to policymakers now.

“CVLSP should be open to competitive bidding so that the best helicopter in price and capability wins,” NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp said.  “The need to ‘steward every dollar,’ as Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen aptly put it, has never been more urgent for taxpaying members of the armed services as well as civilians.”

Since its founding in 1969 NTU and its members have been involved in a plethora of discussions over defense purchasing policies, including in recent times the KC-45A program, the F-35 alternate engine, and the Medium Extended Air Defense System. A copy of NTU’s letter on CVLSP is available here.

The 362,000-member NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. More information on NTU’s work, is available at