From : Posted at 12:21 AM/ET, February 25, 2009 in Military issues - Editorial, USA Today.com Chopper dollars Overdone. Four hundred million bucks buys a lot of airplane. A brand new Boeing 747, for example, costs just $300 million. The world's largest airliner, the Airbus A380, can be had for $350 million. Finding a way to spend the full $400 million on an aircraft is tough, but the Pentagon has done it. That much money will pay for one —one — of the 28 new helicopters being built by Lockheed Martin to replace the aging, white-topped Marine One helicopters that carry the president. Now it's true that the new presidential helicopter will be able to ward off missile attacks, jam radar tracking devices, withstand the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear bomb and carry 14 passengers and thousands of pounds of communications gear that would permit the president to run World War III from the air. But if you accept the need for all that gear, the initial cost was $218 million apiece. How that ballooned to $400 million per copy — $11.2 billion for the fleet of 28 — is a classic example of a military procurement system, as President Obama said Monday, "gone amok." Lockheed Martin and the Navy point fingers at each other. The contractor reportedly accused the Navy of ordering 1,900 changes after the contract was let, and the Navy says that's completely untrue. What's clear is that no one in authority ever stepped in and said "no" before this project became an embarrassing joke. Too bad. There's a good case for replacing the current fleet of presidential helicopters, some of which are 35 years old and don't always work when they have to, despite intensive maintenance by the Marines. The Washington Post cited an incident in 2006 when President Bush boarded Marine One at the White House but had to get out and take a car when the aircraft wouldn't fly. Despite the need, though, there should be no new helicopters at $400 million apiece, and certainly not 28 of them. The fact that the Pentagon still can't control runaway programs like this is a disgrace, and it's completely unacceptable at a time when slashing unnecessary spending is vital. The president should get safe, reliable new helicopters — but at a reasonable price, and as part of serious reforms to the way the Pentagon spends its money.