Sunday, April 01, 2007

Report faults Pentagon for weapons buying problems

Report faults Pentagon for weapons buying problems
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Defense Department has doubled its planned investment in new weapons from $750 billion in 2001 to $1.5 trillion this year, but it is not getting enough bang for its buck, congressional investigators said on Friday.

The Pentagon program "remains a high-risk area" dogged by cost overruns, schedule delays and performance gaps, said the Government Accountability Office, Congress' nonpartisan audit and investigative arm.

Development costs often overshoot estimates by tens or hundreds of million dollars, especially in programs that start with technology that is not yet mature, it said in its fifth annual assessment of selected weapons programs.

Despite the doubling of planned spending in major weapons systems since 2001, "unanticipated cost growth has reduced the return on this investment," GAO chief David Walker, who is the U.S. comptroller general, said in a cover letter to Congress.

"Not only is the buying power of the government reduced and opportunities to make other investments lost, but the warfighter receives less than promised," the GAO said. "The size and scale of current planned investment necessitate better results than we have seen in the past."

Among other problems, critical Defense Department personnel are rotated too frequently, the GAO report said.

The Defense Department withheld general comments on a draft of the report but made technical points on individual weapons programs.