Boeing’s V-22 Osprey program escaped the federal budget chopping block once again after local members of the U.S. House of Representatives voiced opposition about an amendment that would have stripped funding for the tilt-rotor aircraft.
The amendment was presented by U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., to House Resolution 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. It was ultimately rejected Thursday by a voice vote.
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, was one of the legislators who voiced concerns on the House floor.
“I’m very pleased we were able to beat the challenge that had been based on old information and does not recognize the tremendous improvements that have been made in recent years as well as the performance which has demonstrated the utility of the V-22 in the battlefield,” said Meehan during an interview. “I think we were able to win on the facts.”
Procured under a multi-year procurement contract, the V-22 program will save a proposed $852 million over single-year contracts, while providing a required capability for the Marine Corps and Air Force Special Operations, said Meehan, citing a U.S. Department of Defense figure.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-1, of Philadelphia, also voiced opposition to the amendment.
“Both commanders — in the Air Force and Marines — are saying they need it,” said Brady during an interview. “Who are we to tell people who are over there in harm’s way who are asking for tools to be safe what they should have? That’s totally ridiculous.”
Meehan, Brady and U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6, of Chester County, also voiced concerns about the amendment in a recent letter to their House colleagues.
“Deployed by the Marine Corps and Air Force Special Operations Forces, the V-22 enables our forces to conduct combat operations at unprecedented speeds and greater ranges, and offer remote resupply capabilities over greater distances than a conventional helicopter,” states the joint letter by Meehan, Brady and Gerlach. “With this unparalleled flexibility, the V-22 has been declared critical to the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Critics of the aircraft have argued that there are more cost-efficient ways to provide aircraft to the military. They have also harped on previous crashes.
Last month, a MV-22 Osprey crashed in Morocco, killing two crew members. In its history, there were three previous notable Osprey fatal accidents.
“I want to help the Marines,” Quigley said, during his comments on the House floor. “I want to save Marines lives and that is why this amendment is appropriate. It is — in the end — dangerous pork with wings.”
But Meehan dismissed the criticism, saying the Marines have backed the need for this type of combat aircraft.
About a third of Boeing’s 5,900 employees manufacture half of the Osprey — the fuselage, empennage and all subsystems, digital avionics and fly-by-wire control systems — in Ridley Township. The remainder, including final assembly, is completed at Bell Textron Inc. in Texas.
Chris Owens, president of the union at the Ridley Township facility, praised Meehan for fighting against the amendment.
“We are appreciative of his tireless efforts to fight for the V-22, the Chinook, and our workers,” said Owens in a prepared statement. “He understands what the Osprey program means, not just for our military, but for the working families in our region.”
This was not the first time the V-22 program was eyed for cuts.
Last year, the House rejected a similar proposal to slash funding for the program.
And in the 1980s, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney attempted to kill the program but Curt Weldon, the former longtime Republican congressman who represented the 7th District prior to Democrat Joe Sestak, teamed up with Texas officials and they eventually saved the program.