Sen urges DoD to tackle not just cuts, but waste

Sen urges DoD to tackle not just cuts, but waste

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper says he gets it. He wrote in a letter Thursday to Secretary Panetta that he understands that everything has to be on the ubiquitous “table,” in the face of potential spending reductions, but he also suggested that the Pentagon can do a much better job of eliminating waste and becoming more efficient — which could mean big savings.

But Carper didn’t just leave it there. In his letter to Panetta, he laid down a bulleted list of recent places where he’s seen details about DoD waste, and made clear that he thinks that if the department can get its act together, it could effectively recoup billions of dollars. Wrote Carper:

• The DOD Inspector General recently released a report on the Department’s inability to recoup about $200 million in delinquent debts due to poor, but basic, record keeping. Some of these debts were incurred years ago but have yet to see collection.

• The DOD’s Inspector General also released two reports this year describing how the Army has overpaid millions of dollars for spare parts. For an $8.00 helicopter door part, for example, the DOD paid $284.00. In another instance, the Army paid five times too much for a $1,500.00 rotor part that turned out to already have been in stock in the military warehouses.

• Both DOD documents and GAO’s work have shown that, at any given time, there is roughly a billion dollars in spare parts on order that the Department simply does not need, but the Pentagon inventory system doesn’t allow for the order to be changed. This is in addition to the tens of billions of dollars in unneeded spare parts already in the military warehouses.

• USA Today recently reported that the DOD racked up $720 million in late fees for shipping container leases by not returning the containers on time. This $720 million in late fees was on top of the cost of the actual lease.

• The Commission on Wartime Contracting found earlier this month that there was an estimated $31 billion to $60 billion in DOD waste and fraud related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The Commission further described these losses as largely avoidable.

• The GAO has also detailed billions of dollars in cost-overruns for major weapon systems. The GAO noted that several factors, including major inefficiencies in the defense acquisition system, have led to $402 billion in total major weapon system cost overruns. This total is up from $42 billion in Fiscal Year 2000 and $295 billion in Fiscal Year 2007.

Billions and billions and billions — it all starts to sound like Carl Sagan math. And the problem for Carper and other waste-hounds is that there is no single leak under this giant machine where you could just set a bucket to catch the runoff. There are a thousand pinholes in the pipework from which all these dollars run off, and each one is located in a different service or division or location across the Corporation. As we saw with this week’s industrial capacity report, you can only have so much effect with top-down orders or policies.

That doesn’t mean DoD can’t get better, but the nature of the problem means that the Pentagon’s leadership realizes it’s easier to try to keep the spigot wide open than to try to knuckle down about waste and efficiency.

h/t: Battleland

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Let’s say the author is correct and there is no single fix that will come up with a $400 billion or so in cuts; does that mean we don’t try? This is the same reform approach that keeps our political system the textbook definition of a clusterhump. You seem to be implying that we do nothing because there isn’t a panacea cut/reform; which is exactly what the bureaucrats rely on.

These “little” mistakes are neither little nor are they mistakes; if you start with the obvious and follow the money you begin to see a larger pattern of waste, fraud, abuse and general neglect.

Let’s be a little careful when throwing around GAO’s “cost overruns” number. GAO counts it as a “cost overrun” in the DDG-51 destroyer program when the Navy decided to buy more of those in lieu of the canceled (riskier, more expensive) DDG-1000 — but GAO gives no offsetting credit for not buying those DDG-1000s. The Navy *saved* money by doing that, but by GAO accounting it drove up the total cost overrun by billions of dollars. Similarly, every AMRAAM missile or JDAM kit we buy counts as a “cost overrun” because we didn’t originally plan to buy so many of them — but if we instead bought a more expensive missile under a new program, that would not be a cost overrun. That’s nonsense accounting, but it’s what GAO reports.

That said, there are certainly major opportunities to reduce procurement waste. Not funding programs that turn out to be impossible (or merely unaffordable) would be the best place to start; one Future Combat Systems program wastes far more money than all the overpriced hammers and toilet seats combined.

I believe DODBUZZ needs to set their priorities right. If they want to bait their readers with issues like this, should have a way to accept ideas, which could be transformed into actionable memeos to the President, Defense Secretary, Congress and other press outlets (much like some of the think tanks). Its poor reporting to be all over the place, suggesting issues to perceived problems, without offering an pipeline to fix it. Otherwise, stick to the facts. That’s called reporting.

Yeah, I’m sure if we stopped paying contractors more to screw us over than we do if they provided good working weapons on time and on budget that would only fix a pin hole leak. Must be such a tiny pinhole it didn’t even make the chart. After all, everyone knows our defense contractors are chock full of so many good and patriotic Americans that their actions would never be influenced by profit motive. Any good capitalist would tell you that.

I agree with Senator Tom Carper and your article regarding saving money in DoD. What amazes me is that a few organizations have been set up in the past and a few still are in existence that were to streamline organizations and save taxpayer billions, but as always they are filled with incompentent folks who do not know what they are doing. People who write in these blogs have more moral integrity and ideas to get it done then those put in charge of doing these things, i.e cut waste, in the DoD. I see it everyday. The reason that the DoD has to hire private contractors is that DoD Mangers who are promoted are not able to do the job. That is why the Defense Business Board is needed and why their recommendations must be followed.

Congress should look into the tens of thousands of SES and flag officers who run the DoD and cut 50 percent of the positions and you wills see efficieincy inacted. There is a need to get rid of folks who cannot prove they add value to a weapon system. Managment in governemtn keeps adding on and on to their staff because that is the way they think. they have no motivation to do anything else. a restructure is needed. Whya er 31,000 people need to buy and track contractor s building airplanes? The commercial airlines do not have tens of thousands of people overseeing these same contractors.

And, of course, the “$284 helicopter door part” was probably “we bought 1,000 of these at $8 each, but the total contract cost included procurement, oversight, receiving-and-inspection, and shipping, and when you divide those numbers by 1,000 you get $278 per part.”

Sorry but there are not “tens of thousands of SES and flag officers”. Not even ten thousand

Oh please. While the GAO’s accounting methods rightly deserve criticism, you can’t honestly be dismissing rampant historical examples of fraud, waste, and overcharging. Plus trillions in unaccounted funds, by Rumsfeld’s own admission. Wonder who butters your bread…

I can see why your nick is Taxpayer instead of Citizen…you want someone else to fix your problems instead of getting off your *** and doing it for yourself. Pre-drafted memos to the president…wow, go slow there, Patrick Henry! Don’t want to shoot your citizen wad too soon…the exertion of those three mouse clicks is your personal Gettysburg, by the sounds of it.

But Champs’ main point — that it’s too many by half — is still right. Need to fire 5,000 of them. Look at Navy as an example. 286 ships. 245 admirals. And, by the way, not a single ship is commanded by an admiral. They’re just overhead. In an age when we have instant communication back to HQ (Pentagon command center), we can eliminate layers of excess. Plus Navy should get rid of its command ships.

CONGRESS can do a much better job of eliminating waste and becoming more efficient — which could mean enough savings to INCREASE the DOD budget & STILL balance the Federal budget.

Just go reread ‘War is a Racket” by MGEN Smedley Butler—-still relevant and spot on.…

I am shocked — shocked— to find that waste is going on in here!
Waste is endemic and always will be. The hallmark of an inefficient organization, especially when the organization is highly stratified — as is the military — waste (in all of its forms) is unavoidable.

I agree with getting rid of the two command ships. Once they build replacements for them. The Command ships have been invaluable in a number of conflicts and near-conflicts.

Your statement is no more actionable that a politician’s promise. When you figure out how to decide ahead of time exactly which programs will “turn out to be impossible”, come back and we’ll talk,

A lot of so-called “wasted money” is spent on R&D (that’s RESEARCH and Development, in case you’d forgotten). By definition, research means you’re are trying to figure out something you don’t already know. Sometimes it turns out to be easier than you guessed before you started, but sometimes it turns out be harder — a lot harder sometimes. And “harder” = “more expensive”.

There should be more critical reviews of programs that fall at the harder end of the spectrum, particularly after enough money has been spent to at least understand the problem. I suspect the real problem is there’s no enough cold, third party review of what it going to take to solve the problem and, even more importantly, is that extra money worth the extra capability.

(Part 2)
It’s hyper-easy in hind sight to take pot shots at failed or overly expensive systems, as you do, but that money is already spend. When you figure out which FUTURE projects will pay off in increased capability and not break the bank, come back and we’ll pay attention.

Lets just say that twenty years or so of experience in the DOD logistics area, that about 50% of the money spent is wasted. Throw out old parts so you can by new ones. (If they are still available) Bury the system in cumbersome processes and paper, so that it’s extremely difficult or impossible to make “just in time” practices usable. Use two year old data to predict repair parts needs. Allow procurement and contracting to take up to years to process simple replacement part contracts. Always buy “low bidder” that “just meets” requirements, instead of the best qualified and better quality parts.
(And so on!)

Lots of cannards and no solutions by all sides of the spectrum: Let’s put more laws in place to ensure no corrupt contractors/inept purchasing managers mess up the system (Al Gore’s famous hammer)…let’s reduce the size of that freakin FAR so contractors have more leeway…or best yet: let’s nationalize and “in-source” all aspects of the military procurement chain..

How can politicians know what its like to be in the military when most have never served??…By that logic, how can anyone here criticize the President or Congress since they never been in the Oval Office?

Sorry, you can’t reinvent the wheel, you can only do cost/benefit tradeoffs. Alexander’s army probably contracted locals to haul gear on mules for them throughout Central Asia.

Dear Champ, Your enemy is the cult of Islam. Your economy has collapsed and us American taxpayers are unable to continue funding the military as we knew it. Teach your grandchildren to speak Mandarin so they can talk to their bosses. Thank Bill Clinton for selling you out to globalist corporations. Have a happy retirement.
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Dear Sarge, Your enemy is the cult of Islam. Your economy has collapsed and us American taxpayers are unable to continue funding the military as we knew it. Teach your grandchildren to speak Mandarin so they can talk to their new bosses. Thank Bill Clinton for selling you out to globalist corporations. Have a happy retirement.
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Another waste that can be reduced is in the Hands of the Politictions. How about reducing the reports required by Congress. A good deal of these are self-serving to the Politictions and contribute nothing to improving the Services Operations. They Cost a good deal of Money to produce.

The French have a saying: To a good cat a good rat. DoD Acquisition and Logistics is crawling with rats. For example, there is a certain segment of the Navy Community that likes to hold its own convention every year. All the work is done by a major CONTRACTOR to that segment. It encourages conversation but assures an incestuous relationship. Step 1 in stopping waste is UNIFY Acquisition into one department. Make sure that everone knows incompetence will get you fired immediately and an ethics issue gets prison time. That’s a nice start.

There is a simple solution to this mess: Allow warfighters and federal agents to order their supplies online through competitive websites. This eliminates the revolving door and also cuts out GSA/ DLA in the acqusition process. Since OEF started, nothing great has been distributed to the rank and file, even though there is close to one million folks in DoD . Transparent competition tied to warfighters credit lines will save hundreds of billions without cutting pet programs. Competition and more competition is what made America a Great Country. The militec plan http://​www​.militec​.blogspot​.com

Mr. Giordani, I have worked for the Air Force, four years active, five years reserves, and twenty-five years as a general schedule employee in the electronic piece part technical world. Although your suggestion sounds good, it is way too simplistic and does not take into account all the myriad problems that it would incur. Connectors, relays, circuit breakers, ICs, display tubes; they all have engineering elements that may be peculiar to a given weapons system/platform and someone has to ensure the form, fit, and function. That is becoming increasingly harder with the aging systems in current use. Manufacturers no longer want to build items that are not commercially viable and we are still using items designed in the 1950’s that have never been revised. When an item of supply breaks the users still want to complain (and rightly so 99% of the time) to someone and get some remediation. That someone has to have system level and below knowledge and an understanding of the application to advise the procurement community what is required, it isn’t a straight forward “Order this NSN” and you’ll get your part. By your comment you have little understanding of what happens when a part is ordered or what went into trying to ensure that it is the correct item. While I agree that DLA needs overhauled (keelhauled in a lot of cases) bypassing them is not the answer. And competition is not the answer either. Too many parts are sole source because no one else wants to make them. Companies are dropping off Qualified Products Lists due to the low profit margins and that is forcing the services to find commercial items to fill in, not a bad thing if there is a form, fit, and functional item available, but that isn’t always the case.

Sir, I am talking about every day products and not high tech stuff that requires experts. I have been in this business for 25 years and competition will help create better products and jobs. Since you are an insider your comments are understood without argument.

Thank you for your reply!


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