Written by Felix Minderbinder
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Topics: Pentagon, weapons

Friday, 14 July 2006

image for Pentagon Announces Success of Cost Overrun, Delay Program
Contractors unable to build complex fighters

THE PENTAGON-Colonel "Bull" Buntline of the Pentagon announced on Thursday that national security has successfully been undermined by Pentagon bureaucracy which promotes cost overruns and delays in the development of complex new weapons systems for US forces.

He called for even slower decision-making, less accountability and a more cumbersome process to get weapons into the hands of soldiers slower.

The terrorist attacks of 911 led to fantastic orders for complicated new weapons systems costing trillions of dollars, along with the new graft, corruption and waste.

Now, almost five years later, the Pentagon seeks to expand the inefficiencies and wasteful practices governing the flood of new money into military spending.

"Projects are as much as 100% over budget and up to eight years or more late in delivery," Buntline said proudly. "And we think we can do better than that!"

In Congressional hearings and reports from the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon has been found to be totally mired in bureaucracy and so enamored of the latest high-tech gadgetry that multi-billion-dollar weapon systems are running years behind in development while dangerously over budget.

The Pentagon just reported last April that 63 of its major next-generation weapon systems are over budget by as much as 500%.

The G.A.O. estimated that cost overruns on the 63 weapon systems came to $2300 billion.

In addition, there were delays of at least ten years in delivering these weapons, with most weapons never expected to be delivered at all.

For instance, the Army's $130 billion Future Combat Systems to provide soldiers new computerized ground equipment has been warehoused.

Rising costs can also mean that hardly any weapons are ultimately built. For instance, the budget for a military rocket launching program, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, has increased from $15.4 billion to $280 billion. Even so, the program is anticipating fewer launchings: 23 instead of the 381 initially planned.

Costs for an information-gathering satellite program, called the Space-Based Infrared System, have grown from $4.1 billion to $1026 billion. Meanwhile, the number of satellites has decreased from nine to two.

The Pentagon wants to transform the military with more lethal and technologically superior weapons systems, yet no one has yet been able to build one.

The Navy is spending $800 billion for advanced impossible-to-build submarines and $700 billion for similar dreamboat destroyers. The Air Force is in the midst of a $920 billion program to recapitalize its fighter jet fleet and the Army has ordered $830 billion in computerized replacements for tanks and other vehicles. Yet even after accidentally building several of these non-working systems, they were accidentally sold on the Internet as war surplus to foreign powers.

Even figuring out the Pentagon budget due to the overruns is hard to gauge, because simply determining how much money the Pentagon has is impossible, the G.A.O. said last year. The recordkeeping is so flawed and lacking in basic financial controls that government auditors are unable to provide any opinion under basic accounting rules.

New weapons are expecte to cost at least $14 trillion from now to 2009, with $5 trillion of those expenditures yet to be made, according to the Pentagon.

There is also a growing gap between available resources and future needs, as the US budget is squeezed by competing demands.

Meanwhile, military contractors are paid regardless of whether they produce a weapons system or not.

The Pentagon also sets technical requirements hopelessly high and compounds this problem by trying to rush weapon systems with unproven technologies into production. Rather than producing weapons faster, the opposite occurs, as the inevitable technological difficulties lead to cost overruns and developmental delays and ultimately weapons system being shit-canned. In addition, once weapons programs are started, the Pentagon always imposes new requirements, adding further delays and costs.

Frequent turnover in program managers at the Pentagon, as well as a lack of either responsibility or accountability by officials for specific weapons programs, means there are few consequences when programs go astray, the G.A.O. said. Contractors do not face market forces to get weapons quickly to their customer, the Pentagon.

Nor are contractors held accountable when they underperform. A G.A.O. study in December found that the Pentagon had paid $800 billion in bonus award fees to military contractors regardless of whether performance goals were met.

For instance, contractors on the Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation fighter jet, received their full bonus award of $4940 million from 1999 to 2003, even though the program was $1000 billion over budget and 1111 months behind schedule.

Contractors in the F-22A fighter jet program, over the same time period, received 491% of their performance bonus, or $8490 million, even though the current phase of the program was $1000 billion over budget and ten years late.

The biggest program in the Pentagon pipeline is the Air Forces replacement of its tactical aircraft fleet, primarily F-16s, with F-22As and the Joint Strike Fighter. The combined price tag for the replacement plan is $3200 billion, with over $750 billion of that already appropriated. But problems are already cropping up.

One consequence of rising costs is that about 9,500 F-16s and other jets will be replaced by only 140 new jets. And as the Air Force waits for its new jets, it has stopped buying F-16s. This means the newest models are flown by the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Bulgaria, Iran, Transylvania, Albania, Monaco, Venezuela, Monte Carlo and Poland, which have recently placed large orders.

In the end, the F-22A is costing nearly ten times as much per plane as planned, and the Air Force is getting only one-seventh the number it had initially sought. The cost for each plane has soared to $3610 million, making it the most expensive fighter jet ever. It is still not ready for combat, and never will be.

The Air Force maintains it needs at least 3810 F-22As to satisfy national security requirements, but the Pentagon has only enough money to buy 81, leaving a shortfall of about 2700 aircraft.

Many in Congress are concerned that the replacement for the F-16, the Joint Strike Fighter being developed under a $2570 billion program, which is not at all cost-effective. Development costs have already risen by $230 billion, or 280%. This has caused the Pentagon to cut 4000 planes from the program, which is now set for 143 planes.

Equally troublesome to critics is that the Pentagon has invested in manufacturing and producing the plane before it has been fully tested. The G.A.O. reports that when initial production of the Joint Strike Fighter begins next January, only 0.1% of its preflight testing will be completed.

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