Presidential Helicopter Acquisition:

Update on Program's Progress toward Development Start

GAO-14-358R: Published: Apr 10, 2014. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2014.

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Michael J. Sullivan
(202) 512-4841


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What GAO Found

GAO found that the Navy continued to make progress in the past year toward (1) establishing a knowledge-based program that generally aligned with acquisition best practices and (2) meeting corresponding statutory certification requirements for entering the Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition process in the engineering and manufacturing development phase. The Navy has met or expects to meet requirements relating to assessment of technology readiness, making appropriate trade-offs to achieve affordability and getting approval of requirements, and development of an independent cost estimate. DOD has, however, waived a requirement for competitive prototyping and the Navy plans to defer a system level preliminary design review (PDR) until after the start of development. GAO reviewed DOD’s waiver of competitive prototyping for the VXX program last year and found that it addresses one of the two bases provided in Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 for such waivers; that is, that the cost to provide competitive prototypes exceeded the expected benefits. In addition, while the Navy’s plan to defer a system level PDR until after the start of system development deviates from acquisition best practices and is a waiver of a statutory requirement, a number of factors, such as the program’s reliance on mature technologies and selection of an existing aircraft, suggest reduced risk in this deferral.   

Why GAO Did This Study

Given the VH-71 program experience and the importance of developing a helicopter to replace the current fleet of presidential helicopters in a timely manner, the House Armed Services Committee, Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee requested that GAO continue to monitor the VXX presidential helicopter acquisition through a series of reviews, with each of those reviews tailored to where the program is in the acquisition process and provide GAO’s assessment of the program. Subsequently, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 mandated that GAO continue to review and report on the program annually to the congressional defense committees.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making recommendations in this report. 

For more information, contact Michael J. Sullivan at (202) 512-4841 or

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