Pentagon overspent budget by $295 billion
The Christian Science Monitor
By Tom McCawley
April 3, 2008

The Pentagon has gone hundreds of billions of dollars over budget in recent years on key weapons systems, including aircraft, ships, and satellite, said a government audit. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said for the sixth year in a row that the Pentagon had significantly gone over budget, but according to a report presented to Congress this week, the problem is getting worse.

The Washington Post reports:

The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average. In addition, none of the systems that the GAO looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages.

Auditors said the Defense Department showed few signs of improvement since the GAO began issuing its annual assessments of selected weapons systems six years ago. "It's not getting any better by any means," said Michael Sullivan, director of the GAO's acquisition and sourcing team. "It's taking longer and costing more."

The GAO said that Pentagon spending on weapons programs has rocketed to a 20-year high of $1.6 trillion, Agence France-Presse reports. The GAO said a total of 72 programs, including combat ships, fighter jets, and satellites, were over budget.

The spending on new weaponry continued to rise despite funding competition from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a decline in discretionary spending in other areas of the US government budget, the GAO said.

"Every dollar spent inefficiently in developing and procuring weapon systems is less money available for many other internal and external budget priorities – such as the global war on terror and growing entitlement programs (such as social security)," Gene Dodaro, the GAO's acting comptroller general, said in the report delivered to Congress on Monday.

Government auditors said Wednesday that almost half of some 28 contracts to manufacture body armor for Army soldiers were completed without proper tests, the Washington Post reported.

According to the 195-page GAO report (links to PDF file), the Pentagon has doubled the sum pledged to new weapons systems from $790 billion in 2000 to $1.6 trillion in 2007. The GAO also concluded current programs are delivered 21 months late on average.

Commentator Robert Scheer, a journalist and editor of the website TruthDig, called the recent spending the "highest run-up in military spending since World War II."

This is not about the waste of taxpayer dollars – already pushing a trillion – in funding the Iraq war, which, while reprehensible enough, pales in comparison to the big-ticket military systems purchased in the wake of 9/11.

Another recent government audit found that the Army had gaps in its soldiers' safety standards, USA Today reports. A Defense Department audit found that the Army couldn't be sure some of its body armor met safety standards.

The inspector general reviewed $5.2 billion worth of Army and Marine Corps contracts for body armor from 2004 through 2006.

"Specific information concerning testing and approval of first articles was not included in 13 of 28 Army contracts and orders reviewed, and contracting files were not maintained in 11 of 28 Army contracts to show why procurement decisions were made," the report concluded...

"This report indicates that nearly half of the Army's contractors did not perform the most basic test on the body armor before it was sent to our troops fighting overseas," [Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, (D) of New York, who asked for the report] said. "During a time of war, it's shameful that the Army would not scrupulously ensure that every piece of equipment is properly tested, especially a fundamentally life-and-death product such as body armor."

Previous government audits have also found major waste in contracts involving reconstruction efforts in Iraq, The Christian Science Monitor reported last year. The January 2007 report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that about $4.2 million of $43.8 million in US State Department funds spent on a residential camp adjacent to a new Iraq police academy wasn't properly approved.

The Pentagon said it would respond to the most recent report about alleged overspending on weapons systems.

The Defense Department programs suffering from cost overruns included a new presidential helicopter, unmanned aerial drones, and improvements to the F-22A Raptor, CNN reports.

That time lag is forcing the military to keep equipment in use longer than planned, which is itself driving up costs, the report said...

A Pentagon spokesman said the department needs time to study the report before commenting.

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