Entries in Government Accountability Office (3)


GAO Report: Pentagon Spends First and Ask Questions Later

Digital Vision/Thi​nkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal agency charged with catching U.S. government waste said in a new report that the Pentagon has squandered millions in taxpayer dollars on expensive and complex weapons systems by spending first and asking questions later.

The new report, prepared by the Government Accountability Office and published Friday, focused on the shortcomings of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System but hit on a controversial strategy used in other major defense purchases: concurrency.

Concurrency is broadly defined as the practice of not waiting for a proposed weapons system to be fully tested before putting it on the final production line.

When all goes well few, if any, faults are found during testing and minimal changes must be made to those weapons that have already rolled off the factory floor. That way, the military gets its hands on the most advanced operational systems much faster than it would otherwise.

When problems are found, however, taxpayers are usually on the hook for not only the upgrades that need to be made to the systems still in development but for retrofits for those that were already thought to be finished products — at price tags that can run into the billions.

“While some concurrency is understandable, committing to product development before requirements are understood and technologies mature or committing to production and fielding before development is complete is a high-risk strategy that often results in performance shortfalls, unexpected cost increases, schedule delays and test problems,” the GAO said.

Instead of concurrency, the GAO suggested the Pentagon take a “knowledge-based” approach in which there is little or no overlap from technology development to product development to final production.

By the GAO’s estimate, a single problem found in a new variant of the missile system that was in the middle of production caused the cost of testing its capability to quadruple, from $236 million to around $1 billion.

Concurrency is also a major factor in the most expensive weapon system purchase in history, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That program, which will provide three branches of the military nearly 2,500 of the world’s most advanced fifth-generation stealth fighters, is expected to cost over $1 trillion over the next half-century and the costs keep rising. The F-35 officially went into production in 2003, but the first ever test flight didn’t take off until three years later.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons purchaser, said in February that the plan to buy the F-35 was so flawed it amounted to “acquisition malpractice.”

“I can spend quite a few minutes on the F-35, but I don’t want to,” Kendall said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice, OK? It should not have been done, OK? But we did it.”

In a report last month, the GAO found that the Pentagon had taken steps to reduce concurrency with the F-35 by delaying the purchase of some planes, but that had predictably increased the overall cost of the program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senators Cry Foul over Plan to Trim Watchdog Agency

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- A group of the most fervent budget hawks in Congress have found at least one spending cut that they don’t like: proposed cuts the Government Accountability Office’s budget.

Claiming that the proposed 7 percent cut will be “overly burdensome” to the government watchdog agency, five senators, including four Republicans and one Democrat, sent a letter to the appropriators Thursday in protest.

“We are, however, concerned that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is being unfairly singled out with both excessively deep cuts and overly burdensome new mandates that will consume the agency’s more limited resources for no apparent benefit,” they wrote.

The letter is signed by Senators Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

This month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Chairman Ben Nelson’s, D-Neb., plan -- within the fiscal year 2012 Legislative Branch appropriations bill -- to cut Congress’ spending by 5.2 percent, amounting to a $200 million saving.

“These cuts are strategic and sensible.  But make no mistake, they are real and will force Congress and the agencies on Capitol Hill to live with less,” Nelson said of the proposed cuts earlier this month.  “As Congress works to bring down federal spending, bring down the debt and balance the federal budget, Congress must tighten its own belt.”

The proposal calls for a 7.6 percent cut to the GAO, the independent, nonpartisan agency that served as a Congressional watchdog investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer’s money.

“While we agree GAO must face the same harsh fiscal realities being applied to every other federal agency and program, the cut to the agency’s budget represents more than 10 percent of the entire reduction proposed within legislative branch spending,” the bipartisan group of Senators wrote in the letter to Chairman Nelson and Ranking Member Hoeven on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “There is no question oversight of the federal government, a primary function of the legislative branch, will suffer as a result of this dramatic cut to GAO funding.”

In an op-ed in The Washington Examiner Thursday morning, Sen. Coburn dubs this the “Senate appropriators’ secret war against oversight.”

“The logic of the committee’s proposal is tough to decipher,” Coburn wrote.  “At a time when we are running a $15 trillion debt and are borrowing $4.5 billion a day to keep government open and our military deployed, every agency needs to tighten its belt.  Yet, the Appropriations Committee proposal looks like mismanagement at best and pay back at worse.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Duplication, Waste Costs Taxpayers Billions Each Year

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress currently embroiled in a contentious spending fight, a congressional watchdog has found that a staggering level of duplication is plaguing the bloated federal budget -- and chewing up billions of dollars in funding every year.

In a new report obtained by ABC News, the Government Accountability Office determined that “reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services.”

For instance, the GAO found, the Department of Defense could save up to $460 million every year by undertaking a “broader restructuring” of its military health care system.

The cost of such programs with duplicative and overlapping purposes is eye-opening. The military came in for special scrutiny: over $10 billion on defense-wide business systems every year; $49 billion in military and veterans health services; and at least $76 billion since 2005 in urgent processing systems for the military.

But the military is by no means alone. The Department of Transportation listed $58 billion dollars for over 100 separate surface transportation programs. And the Treasury Department listed almost $1 trillion in government-wide tax expenditures, some of which the GAO found “may be ineffective at achieving their social or economic purposes.”

“Considering the amount of program dollars involved in the issues we have identified, even limited adjustments could result in significant savings,” the GAO said.

According to the GAO, not only has Congress been busy spending money on duplicative efforts, but the government has neglected to investigate numerous programs, making the expenditure of some funds not only redundant but wasteful.

For instance, only five of 47 job training and employment programs surveyed by the GAO had been studied to evaluate whether outcomes were the result of the program itself or another cause altogether.

“Little is known about the effectiveness of most programs,” the watchdog observed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio