WASHINGTON -- Despite strong congressional lobbying, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney is remaining firm in his decision to halt the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey aircraft program, a congressional aide said Wednesday.
A Pennsylvania delegation of Republican Sens.Arlen Specter and John Heinz and Republican Rep. Curt Weldon and Democratic Rep. Thomas Foglietta met with Cheney at the Pentagon Tuesday to lobby for the V-22 - apparently to no avail.
'The delegation pretty much concluded that if they're going to win this one, they're going to have to win it in Congress. It would be pretty tough to turn Cheney around,' said Dan McKenna, Specter's spokesman.
Cheney announced in April his plans to cancel the V-22 -- a new tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like a plane -- as part of $10 billion in budget cuts for fiscal 1990 that begins Oct. 1.
The cancellation led to outcries in Congress, where the V-22 appears to have wide support from former Marines and others who contend the technology behind the revolutionary aircraft could be used by the civilian aviation industry.
Bell Helicopter Textron of Fort Worth, Texas, and Boeing Vertol of Philadelphia are developing the V-22 jointly under a $1.8 billion contract originally scheduled to run through mid-1992.
The Pentagon has invested $2.5 billion in the program and has six aircraft built or under construction. The plane has made early test flights, and the Pentagon had planned to buy 602 Ospreys at a cost of $27 billion.
Cheney has said he is canceling the program for budgetary reasons and because of the duplicative purpose of the aircraft, which is designed to ferry Marines from ship to shore in much the same way that helicopters do now.
But members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation disputed Cheney's figures that showed alternative helicopters would cost less than going ahead with the V-22.
'Cheney agreed to look at those figures again, but he didn't agree to reconsider his decision. The only concession they got from Cheney was that he would go back and look over those figures,' McKenna said.
Specter sent a letter Wednesday to Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, asking him to hold special hearings on the disputed cost figures.