This Is No Joke

Just in time for April Fool's Day, the Government Accountability Office issued a report (gao-08-467sp) that documents the horrible truth of an open secret in town: That contracts for ships, aircraft and satellite are billions over budget and delayed by years.

Here's what the GAO had to say about the findings.

"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."

Nightmare.

Here's what my colleague Dana Hedgpeth had to say on the front page of the Washington Post.

"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."

Nightmare.

Here's what the New York Times said in an editorial yesterday.

"Whoever wins the election will have to keep asking for large budgets to repair the damage from this disastrous war and to ensure that the country is ready to face new dangers. That would require a lot more vigilance about cost overruns on big-ticket weapons systems. It would also require the courage to scale back or cancel expensive -- and heavily lobbied -- acquisition programs that don't meet today's threats or tomorrow's."

You get it, right?

By Robert O'Harrow |  April 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET defense
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Comments

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good morning,
I wonder if our nation will make it to November?
Joseph M. Abad
Tampa

Posted by: tropedoabad | April 3, 2008 11:48 AM

How is that our Government has allowed a single business to operate in such a fashion that it can threaten the financial stability of the entire nation and then step in and bail it out of trouble?

Posted by: Dane Youell | April 3, 2008 11:12 PM

As soon as he took office Pres Bush started on this outsourcing initiative in order to, according to his theory, save American taxpayers money (and justify his tax cut program).

Yet the "CEO president" with an MBA has utterly failed to produce those results. Agency after agency, program after program, contract after contract, have failed to produce the savings that would confirm Pres Bush's theory.

One thing the outsourcing initiative did achieve was tripling the number of lobbyists employed to go after those contracts, which I'm sure has made legislators happy, even if they "can't" take sky box seats for "free" anymore.

Posted by: LALA | April 4, 2008 12:48 AM

What's not to get, Robert?

This is decades old issue, well documented in GAO and other reports.

It takes two to tango. The ultimate customers in the services, acquisition officials and some support contractors, and the highly concentrated circle of systems makers and ingrators all play the game in unison-but hopefully not with any collusion. That isn't necessary anyway, because the executive branch makers of policies and regs and Congress are all
players and stakeholders, too.

This game is no dirtier or more immoral or cynical than, say, the much smaller earmark game, with the losers being the warfighters and the taxpayers.

Any of the three presidential contenders will attempt to make a dent in this perennial issue by killing a few programs, tightening oversight, disciplining the program offices and their intimate support contractors and FFRDCs, and tightening the reins on contractors. But no one is going to solve this problem in four or eight years (because it's cultural and involves some parties' sense of entitlement)--but they should try nonetheless

Posted by: Michael Lent | April 4, 2008 10:17 AM

Michael and LALA's comments are right on albeit with rich undertones of cynicism. You can almost feel the weariness as they trudge through their pessimistic comments. The only omission is the familiar "it has always been that way and it will always be that way".
BUT, who can blame them for their cynicism when a look at our history proves beyond doubt, the eternal truth of their comments?
After all, "cynicism is but the smoke rising from the embers of unrealized dreams", and the American dream was shattered a long time ago. Welcome to Amerika!

Posted by: Doubtom | April 4, 2008 12:19 PM

Michael and LALA's comments are right on albeit with rich undertones of cynicism. You can almost feel the weariness as they trudge through their pessimistic comments. The only omission is the familiar "it has always been that way and it will always be that way".
BUT, who can blame them for their cynicism when a look at our history proves beyond doubt, the eternal truth of their comments?
After all, "cynicism is but the smoke rising from the embers of unrealized dreams", and the American dream was shattered a long time ago. Welcome to Amerika!

Posted by: Doubtom | April 4, 2008 12:19 PM

Today's paper has an article stating that several Republican and Democrat Senators own defense stocks which have made them millions in the last few years.
We have to delare our stock holdings to avoid a "conflict of interest", which is the way it should be...for everyone

Posted by: DCMADude | April 4, 2008 12:51 PM

I still find it incredible that this corrupt, lying, commander-in-thief has not been impeached after all the times he's been caught lying, steering billions to his donors, allowing thousands to die needlessly, due to lack of IED protection, and generally transforming this beloved country from a donor to a begger nation. I said when the lying coward was running, that he was promising pie-in-the-sky to people who were fat, dum, and happy from years of effective leadership. I said that people were willing to keep giving him their support, after he had taken everything they had, and gave it overtly, to his fat cat friends. That bin Laden lover spirited the family out of America to safety, when maybe we could have used them as bargaining chips to get his childhood friend, Osama, to surrender. I could continue with his incredible crimes and malfeasences, but you get my meaning. When I see families willing to sacrifice their children to THE biggest hoax ever in the history of the world, well, I'm reminded... being republican means never having to say "I'm Sorry"!!!!! Watch how nothing is done about the FAA scandal that has his prints all over it.

Posted by: ric1m | April 4, 2008 8:39 PM

I am always amused by the "end times" tenor of many comments regarding federal contracting. It puzzles me that we are so concerned about effects on war-fighters yet we cannot provide adequate body armor or adequate vehicles for our current foreign interventions.

Additionally, we starve non-DOD obligations so that we can provide ever increasing resources in the name of war-fighting "homeland security".

However, based on my experience, federal programs that receive a fraction of what is requested but are still required to meet goals set by statute, reviewed annually by independent 3rd party auditors and solicits public involvement can fulfill their functions with reasonable effectiveness.

The discipline and data management required by quarterly financial reporting culminating in an annual report has proven to be an enormously effective management tool. My background is geology not financial management and this financial reporting initiative can be very painful.

But of course no one would dream of imposing radically new approaches to the age-old way the federal government handles large contracts. So fifty years from now, this argument will still be current.

Posted by: Grubstake2000 | April 7, 2008 5:50 AM

I share many of the views expressed in the above comments. However, I often have to remind everyone that 62 million of our fellow citizens renewed President Bush contract for another 4 years in 2004. I would argue that a very small number of voters understand what is happening in the country, especially with government contracting.

Posted by: project505 | April 7, 2008 12:29 PM

I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that WAY TOO MANY OF OUR CONGRESS, SENATE, EXECUTIVE BRANCH AND DOD have private investments in these arms companies? So much for privatization being "more efficient"..but I guess that is impossible in a closed-loop self-administered graft system isn't it?

Posted by: Madame_karnak | April 10, 2008 11:32 AM

I think this has at least as much to do with congressmen getting themselves reelected due to the pork they bring to their home districts as it does with accumulating personal wealth. Wasteful military spending in the name of protecting our soldiers and preventing terrorism seems to be the bait now, and the taxpayer takes it hook, line, and sinker.

Getting rid of Bush is step 1 in solving the problem, but I don't expect him to leave office voluntarily in 2009. Or maybe bin Laden will bleed us dry as he claimed he would and we will be forced to cut spending. It would be ironic if bin Laden accomplishes what Reagan's apologists said he was trying to do. In any event those least capable of doing so will pay the heaviest price.

Posted by: P. Goodman | April 10, 2008 3:35 PM

Although absurd, all this is not news!

All one has to do is dig out of history Eisenhower's Farewell Address in which he warns of the problems to be caused by the Military-Industrial Complex. And, VOILA!

Posted by: Richard J Mullin | April 14, 2008 10:00 AM

It is very depressing but true as we all know. We are to blame for not paying attention, which is exactly what our politicians want. I allowed our government to constantly take away my rights and did nothing! Sure, I wrote a letter now and then which went directly to the circular file. Your INTELLIGENT vote can change things, but certainly not overnight. A new President is but a small step in revamping our government. You people vote the same old same old candidates and wonder why thinks don't change. Vote for the new guy and if he doesn't work his ass off for you personally, making positive changes in your life, then vote him out. It is a long term fix, but there is no quick fix to this disaster.

Posted by: Selby | April 23, 2008 12:54 PM

IN MY WORLD THE PEOPLE DON'T SEE THE NEED TO CONTROL THE REST OF THE WORLD.BUT WE ALSO DON;T NEED TO MAKE 40000000000 IN PROFIT.IF WE CARE ABOUT OUR PEOP[LE WE WOULD DROP THE PRICE OF GAS TO 125 GAL AND IN 18 MONTHS OUR COUNTRY WOULD EVEN OUT. YOU CAN'T PAY MORE A HOUSE PAYMENT THAN YOUR HOUSE IS WORTH. TANKS
KEV.

Posted by: KEVIN SARGENT | May 7, 2008 7:58 PM

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