GAO: Most Pentagon weapons programs exceed cost estimates

At least half the weapons programs in the Defense Department's portfolio have exceeded costs, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The total cost of the 98 programs comprising the Pentagon's major defense acquisitions has risen since 2008 by $135 billion, of which $70 billion can be attributed to poor management or execution problems, GAO said in a recent report. A small number of programs are responsible for the procurement cost growth; the Joint Strike Fighter, for instance, because of unproven technology and other problems, accounted for $28 billion of increase without a change in quantities, according to the report.

"We simply cannot balance our budget when we consistently pay hundreds of billions of dollars more than expected for our major weapons systems," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., at a Tuesday hearing during his opening statement as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management.

More than half of the portfolio's total cost growth since 2008 was driven by 10 of the department's largest programs, all currently in production, including the Joint Strike Fighter, DDG 51 Destroyer and C-17A Globemaster III.

"As these programs leave the portfolio through completion or cancellation, their cost will leave with them," said the GAO report that was highlighted during the hearing.

Many cost overruns are due to changes in design, schedule delays and immature technology, GAO found. Vacancies among the senior-level acquisition ranks also hindered effective management of the billions of dollars at stake, witnesses said. "Often there are vacancies in policy-making levels for extended periods of time, and it's not a helpful thing for anyone involved," said Richard Burke, deputy director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office at Defense.

Carper talked about streamlining the confirmation process for senior acquisition officials to ensure effective oversight of the weapons programs, while Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., recommended greater accountability for program managers who do not perform up to par when it comes to reining in cost overruns. Brown, who said cost overruns "seem more like the norm than the exception," is the ranking member of the subcommittee.

John Young, senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, said the Obama administration needs to "empower" civil servants in the acquisition workforce to make responsible procurement decisions.

GAO praised the Pentagon for its efforts to incorporate the 2009 weapons system acquisition reform law. "To its credit, DoD has demonstrated a strong commitment, at the highest levels, to address the management of its weapon system acquisitions, and the department has started to reprioritize and rebalance its weapon system investments."

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

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

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

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