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GAO Blasts Weapons Budget

The Navy expects the costs of its first two Littoral Combat Ships to exceed their combined budget of $472 million by more than 100 percent.
The Navy expects the costs of its first two Littoral Combat Ships to exceed their combined budget of $472 million by more than 100 percent. (Lockheed Martin Via Associated Press)
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The GAO's Sullivan said the reasons for the cost overruns and delays are threefold: There are too many programs chasing too few dollars; technologies are often not mature enough to go into production; and it takes too long to design, develop and produce a system.

"They're asking for something that they're not sure can be built, given existing technologies, and that's risky," Sullivan said in an interview.

Costs of some systems were driven up as much as 72 percent when changes were made to the program requirements after development of the system had begun, the report says. Half of the programs studied had 25 percent increases in the expected lines of code in their software.

Steven L. Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at George Washington University, said the GAO's report reveals the recurring problems the Pentagon faces with its costly procurements.

"The nature of major weapon systems development is that you have to expect that the initial estimates, and typically the initial contracts, are overly optimistic and unrealistic," he said. "Unfortunately the purchaser -- the government -- typically lacks the discipline to freeze the configuration such that the contractor has any reasonable chance of developing what it promised on time and for the price promised."

Defense Department officials have tried to improve the procurement process, the GAO said, by doing more planning and review in the early stages of a contract. But "these significant policy changes have not yet translated into best practices on individual programs," Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the GAO, wrote in the report.

"Flagship acquisitions, as well as many other top priorities in each of the services, continue to cost significantly more, take longer to produce, and deliver less than was promised," Dodaro said. "This is likely to continue until the overall environment for weapon system acquisitions changes."


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