- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Memorable debate

Dan Thomasson writes in his column “Debatable debates” (Commentary, Tuesday) that the only thing anyone remembers about the Reagan-Carter presidential debates were “nonsubstantive remarks,” such as when Ronald Reagan replied, “There you go again” to a criticism by Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Thomasson is wrong. What everyone remembers about the Reagan-Carter debates is when Mr. Reagan turned to the camera and asked the American people, “Are you really better off now than you were four years ago?”

After that debate, polls that had indicated that Mr. Reagan and Mr. Carter were running dead even suddenly showed Mr. Reagan the overwhelming choice. Soon after, Mr. Reagan won in a landslide. Nonsubstantive? I think not.

BRUCE G. KAUFFMAN

Alexandria

Kerry Iraq plans questioned

Sen. John Kerry’s plan to improve the U.S. effort in Iraq (“Kerry calls Iraq war ‘profound diversion,’ ” Page 1, Tuesday) offers nothing substantial to the conflict. Of his four points, the only one in which the current administration is not making much progress is supplementing U.S. forces with more foreign troops. And though this may sound like an attractive option, it is unrealistic and unnecessary.

Mr. Kerry would undoubtedly be looking to Western European allies such as France and Germany for contributions to the effort. Assuming that French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could muster the political will to send their troops, it is highly unlikely that they would even make a worthwhile contribution there. European nations spend so little on their militaries that it would be questionable whether their troops would be adequately trained and supported for such a demanding mission, especially taking into consideration that these nations are already stressed by helping us in Afghanistan.

Given that Iraq is in the grip of an insurgency, not a war of attrition, the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. The United States learned this painful lesson in Vietnam, where increasing the quantity of troops yielded no demonstrable benefit in defeating the guerrillas. The United States should instead be following the example it set in El Salvador, where a vicious and determined guerrilla movement was defeated with highly skilled advisers from U.S. special operations forces and other personnel.

ROBERT PAISLEY

Research assistant

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

The president’s helicopter

Malcolm Wallop’s commentary (“Protect America’s pride,” Op-Ed, Tuesday) raises a number of previously discredited myths or half-truths about the presidential helicopter competition, but never once discusses the central issue — whether Lockheed Martin or Sikorsky is offering the best helicopter for the president.

The commentary incorrectly asserts that “Italy’s AgustaWestland (will) design, build and maintain” the presidential helicopter fleet. As the author well knows, Lockheed Martin, which has proudly served our nation for more than 90 years, is the prime contractor for Team US101. Bell Helicopter will build the US101 in Texas, and Lockheed Martin will integrate the helicopters in New York, creating about 1,000 new jobs in the process. While Team US101 actually would generate new jobs for Americans by insourcing to the United States production of a helicopter that currently is produced abroad, Sikorsky’s corporate parent, United Technologies, is among the most aggressive outsourcers of jobs, sending some 3,000 American jobs to places such as China and Brazil last year alone. Today, in fact, more than half of the United Technologies work force is based overseas.

The commentary also misses the mark in raising fears that selecting the US101 over Sikorsky would somehow damage the U.S. helicopter industrial base. A July Department of Defense report on the U.S. rotorcraft industry noted that Sikorsky and other firms put themselves at a competitive disadvantage by failing to invest in new technologies or modern management systems, preferring instead to reap “the relative consistency and profitability” of the aftermarket and support business. The report also noted that systems integrators such as Lockheed Martin, as well as small businesses and international suppliers, have entered the market and may “offer the Department robust options that today’s prime contractors may not be motivated to pursue.”

In the Sept. 13 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Industrial Policy Suzanne Patrick declared that the concern raised by Mr. Wallop is “simply not true.” She went on to say: “If the military services continue to fill 21st century capability requirements with 20th century designs from legacy suppliers, neither the industry nor the government will be inspired to invest in important vertical lift concepts beyond current capabilities.” As Miss Patrick notes, vigorous competition open to all qualified players is the best way to ensure that the U.S. government obtains the best solutions to its mission requirements, whether they be supporting war fighters or transporting the president.

Although it asserts that Sikorsky’s helicopter is the safest, the commentary neglects to point out that it has yet to see operational service with any paying customer and has less than 10 percent of the flight hours amassed by the US101. Moreover, the US101 has demonstrated its mettle in actual combat conditions and has three engines, compared to just two on the Sikorsky helicopter, offering 50 percent more power and an added margin of safety that our president deserves. Just as important, the US101’s proven performance and the fact that it can demonstrate today many capabilities that are merely promised by Sikorsky significantly reduces risks for the government, taxpayers and the president.

Finally, the commentary knowingly stretches the truth in suggesting that security would somehow be compromised because some US101 components would be manufactured abroad. As a paid advocate for Sikorsky, the author should know that the current Marine One helicopter, built by Sikorsky, contains components from international suppliers, as does the Air Force One aircraft. The US101 will be built consistent with all U.S. government security regulations.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note that, despite raising concerns about international participation in the presidential helicopter program, the commentary conveniently neglects to mention that Sikorsky’s offering was designed with the assistance of partners in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Brazil, or that its engines will contain components from international suppliers.

Team US101 believes that our helicopter is superior to Sikorsky’s offering. It is combat-proven, more powerful, and better suited to the presidential mission because its cabin is one-third larger. It continues to prove itself while in service with four nations worldwide. Perhaps this is why Sikorsky and its supporters prefer to dwell on nonissues rather than discuss the relative merits of the competing helicopters. It is a shame to see someone of Mr. Wallop’s stature participate in a campaign that essentially questions the ability of the Navy, and the many patriotic professionals supporting it, to select the best helicopter for the president.

ROBERT H. TRICE

Senior vice president,

business development

Lockheed Martin Corp.

Bethesda

I challenge you

Terence P. Jeffrey’s “Teed off: federal golf funds” (Commentary, Saturday) expresses scorn that the government is helping to fund the First Tee program. I would like to invite Mr. Jeffrey or anyone from The Washington Times to attend even one session of the First Tee’s programming.

I doubt that Mr. Jeffrey has any experience with the First Tee program and the positive values and lessons instilled in our region’s young people by the First Tee. My confidence in this assumption comes from my experience that anyone who truly knows anything about the First Tee would not feel the way he does.

The First Tee is a wonderful program that exposes children to the game of golf who would not normally have that opportunity. Not only do they learn how to play this wonderful game, but they also get to spend time outdoors, getting exercise, experiencing nature and learning about the nine core values that the First Tee preaches and the game of golf teaches all who play: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, confidence, respect, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

When one considers all the programs that receive funding from the federal government, it is hard to understand why someone can have such bitterness toward a program that teaches children the aforementioned values, gets them outdoors, lets them exercise and teaches them a fun lifetime sport that is played by millions worldwide. Who could possibly be opposed to that?

Only someone who has no idea what truly happens at the First Tee, someone who has seen a few high-profile First Tee projects and thinks the First Tee is all about tournaments at Pebble Beach and congressional breakfasts.

I challenge Mr. Jeffrey or anyone else with misguided views to attend a First Tee program offering at Langston Golf Course in Northeast or at East Potomac Golf Course in Southwest. See for yourself what is really happening at the First Tee. See the smiles on the children’s faces when they master a new skill.

See the respectful way the children treat one another after being exposed to life skills, and hear the cheers when they realize that they will be able to return to this setting next week and learn and experience more. Then tell me this is wasted money. More importantly, tell the children and their parents or guardians that this is not a worthwhile program. I challenge you.

SCOTT ALLEN

Executive director

First Tee of Washington, D.C.

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