An experimental aircraft that has repeatedly been rejected by the numerous Pentagon reviews as unfeasible has been kept alive through tens of millions of dollars in congressional earmarks, ABC News' The Blotter reports. Research on the DP-2 research was originally the work of former POGO fellow Jason Vest, who will release a monograph on the subject this fall under the auspices of the Center for Defense Information. Tomorrow a hearing will be held (pdf) by the House Science Committee on the dubious program.
DuPont Aerospace (unconnected with the giant chemical company of a similar name) has given over $50,000 in contributions to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California), former chairman and now ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and former Rep. Christopher Cox (R-California), now chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both Hunter and Cox have "been the two most consistent supporters," said Anthony DuPont, the president of DuPont Aerospace. Hunter has advertised his earmarks for DuPont's company in press releases, such as this one:
Contractor: DuPont Aerospace
The DP-2 is a high speed, vertical and short field takeoff and landing (VSTOL) aircraft. The DP-2 can meet Special Operations Forces requirements including insertion and extraction of personnel & equipment and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). The DP-2 and scaled up variants support the Navy/Marine Corps Ship to Objective Maneuver (STOM) needs and also meet the Army and Air Force Joint Heavy Lift requirement at a fraction of the cost of the systems currently existing or under study.
Amount: $8 million
Regarding the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) role for the DP-2 that Hunter touts in his press release from last year, the Air Force ruled out the DP-2 in a 2002 Analysis of Alternatives for the CSAR replacement (known as CSAR-X, which is a contract that is currently mired in controversy). Click on the graphic for details.
Apparently the hearing should be quite interesting. Tony DuPont will be videoconferencing in his testimony due to some health issues we hear.
UPDATE: Keith Ashdown at Taxpayers for Common Sense says that though Hunter requested $8 million, it was pared down to only a cool $3.9 million.
-- Nick Schwellenbach