By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The cost of building and operating the controversial U.S. anti-ballistic missile sites in Europe could substantially exceed the original estimate of more than $4 billion, the Government Accountability Office has told Congress.
The Defense Department's original estimate of $837 million for constructing the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic "did not fully account for the cost of power and utilities at the sites, among other things," the GAO said in a report sent recently to Sens. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tim Johnson (D-N.D.), chairman of the panel's military construction subcommittee, and Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.).
That estimate, contained in the fiscal 2009 budget, was sent before accomplishing key design milestones and without a review by the Army Corps of Engineers, the GAO said. In May 2009, according to the report, an Army Corps of Engineers official said after reviewing design data that the construction estimate should be raised "to almost $1.2 billion -- $803 million for site in Poland . . . that would house the 10 interceptors and $369 million for the Czech Republic site for the mid-course radar site."
The Corps of Engineers, after surveying the sites in the two countries, said more money would be needed for additional power generation, water and wastewater treatment facilities and for emergency support services.
In addition, the initial estimates did not include the need to construct support facilities such as housing for the Army personnel who would operate the Polish facility and the Air Force personnel at the Czech Republic radar site.
The GAO also said that the $612 million originally allocated to operation of the sites over the five-year period covered by the budgeting was too low. For example, the report said, the estimate did not include funds for security at bases, a figure that depends on how much the host countries will pay for.
That decision awaits ratification of agreements with the hosts. But both the Polish and Czech parliaments are waiting for word from President Obama on whether he will go ahead with the sites as planned by the Bush administration.
The delay in ratification, which was expected last spring, will set back completion dates of construction for the radar sites in fall 2012 and spring 2013 for the interceptor site.
Also included in the original $4 billion estimate was $2.6 billion for development, testing, and procurement costs.
The GAO recommended that the Defense Department develop "accurate, realistic, and complete cost estimates for military construction and operations and support for ballistic missile defenses in Europe" and that the Army and Air Force reach agreement on how the facilities will be funded over the long term.
In written comments on the report, the Pentagon said that it is taking steps to address the issues it identified but that new estimates would not be ready in time for the fiscal year 2011 budget submission, as the report recommended.