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Defense Dept. doubles spending on systems that don't deliver

Military doubles dollars it will spend on new weapons systems, but many are behind schedule or cannot deliver on crucial technological innovations.

The price tag on the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (PDF) has gone up 168 percent--just one of the military's flagship programs that cost more, take longer to produce, and deliver less, according to a government report.


The military has doubled the amount it will spend on new weapons systems since 2000, but many are behind schedule or cannot deliver on the crucial technological innovations, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found in an annual review of 72 high-profile programs.

Proposed spending has rocketed from $790 billion to $1.6 trillion since 2000, a 26 percent increase, according to the congressional watchdog agency. But more money has not meant better results. Even at increased costs, the GAO found, weapons programs are failing to deliver promised capabilities and are almost never on time. This means that the military must settle for "suboptimal" acquisitions and late delivery to the battlefield, even though the "warfighter's urgent need" is what's often cited when these weapon systems are pitched.

The average delay is 21 months, according to the report. Of all the programs assessed, none had met the "best-practices standards" for mature technologies, stable design, or mature production, which are essential to meet cost, schedule, and performance targets.


Money misspent on weapon systems means not only reduced buying power for defense, but also less money for other priorities--such as the global war on terror and growing entitlement programs, Acting Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro warned Congress.

The report identified four major problems with the Defense Department's acquisition process: program changes (63 percent of performance requirements changed mid-stream), frequent program manager turnover (making it hard to hold anyone accountable), reliance on private contractors to support and oversee contracts (fox guarding the hen house), and weapon systems dependent on increasingly complex, yet-to-be-developed software (we need more H-1B visas).