President Bush is being pressed by his two closest European allies to award the contract for the U.S. presidential helicopter to the Anglo-Italian Augusta Westland company, replacing Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
Britain's Tony Blair and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who have supported military action in Iraq, have lobbied Bush for the Marine One contract. Augusta Westland has hooked up with Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin to compete for construction of the president's helicopter fleet, which is due for replacement.
Sikorsky, which has produced and maintained Marine One since 1957, has put over $500 million of its own funds into the new model, VH-92. Augusta Westland's US-101 is heavily subsidized by the British and Italian governments.
CHARLIE NORWOOD'S ENEMIES
Rep. Charlie Norwood, a back-bench conservative Republican from Georgia, this week lashed out against a Democratic candidate for president and the Republican mayor of New York City for attacking his bill to encourage local enforcement of immigration laws.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman recently assailed the Norwood bill in a speech to the Latino Peace Officers Association. Mayor Michael Bloomberg put Norwood on his blacklist of House Republicans. Norwood accused Bloomberg of seeking "a safe harbor for the 80,000 criminal aliens living within our borders." The congressman accused Lieberman of "tired and empty rhetoric."
A footnote: House Republicans were amazed by Bloomberg's enemies list of four GOP congressmen, urging New Yorkers not to contribute to any of them. In addition to Norwood, they include House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Mark Kennedy of Minnesota and Tom Tancredo of Colorado.