Lawmaker says he'll urge appropriators to kill Osprey program

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., finally got his hearing on the performance of the Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey on Tuesday, expressing his "strong reservations" about the hybrid tilt-rotor aircraft at the beginning and announcing at the end he would recommend that the House Appropriations Committee cut its funding.

The hearing in between those two statements was a tale of two airplanes. Two Government Accountability Office witnesses and a retired aviation expert joined committee Democrats in describing an over-priced failure with severe reliability problems and potential safety issues.

Meanwhile, the Marines' top aviation official and the commander of an Osprey squadron that operated in Iraq for six months portrayed the aircraft as an essential weapon system with unmatched capabilities.

Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., tried to provide some balance, noting the high failure rate of many of the Osprey's components during its three combat deployments, but citing similar problems with other aircraft at similar stages of operations.

Towns had adjourned a scheduled hearing on the V-22 last month because the Pentagon had failed to provide requested records on the Osprey's performance in Iraq. Those records "raise even more serious questions about the V-22," he said.

But Towns relied mainly on data from a GAO report that said while the Osprey "successfully completed all its missions" in Iraq, it operated in a "low threat environment," and had aircraft availability rates far below requirements because key components were failing after one-third of their flight hours. Towns said each V-22 cost $120 million, three times the initial estimate.

Arthur Rivolo, an independent aviation analyst who has monitored the V-22 program for much of its 25 years of development, said it has failed to meet its promised performance and has severe safety issues that the Marines "have shown no interest in resolving" but will "come back to bite them" in a future combat situation.

Lt. Gen. George Trautman, deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation, acknowledged the MV-22 -- the Marine Corps variant of the V-22 -- had availability problems during its three six-month Iraq deployment because no one had predicted the high failure rate of some components. But he said the Osprey's ability to take off and land like a helicopter, then fly with the speed, range and altitude of a turboprop aircraft "has transformed our way of fighting."

He predicted the availability problems would be corrected with more experience.

An even stronger defense was presented by Lt. Col. Karsten Heckl, who commanded the second MV-22 squadron in Iraq. After listening to the other witnesses and committee members say the Osprey could not operate in hot or cold weather and dare not fly in hostile conditions, Heckl said his squadron flew through days of 120-degree heat and flew every mission assigned, including combat raids.

But Towns concluded the hearing by announcing that "the list of things the Osprey can't do is longer than the list of things it can do."

He said he would send the committee's report to the appropriators so they "can put the taxpayers out of their misery" with the V-22. Towns later issued a news release that corrected his closing remark to say, "It's time to put the Osprey out of its misery."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.