The Pentagon raised the cost estimates for 37 of its 47 major weapons systems $4.3 billion in a single budget year, Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) disclosed yesterday.
That increase, which ws over and above likely increases due to inflation, confirms that costs of these systems are out of control, he said at a session of his Senate Appropriations Committee.
The hearing was called by Hatfield and the committee's ranking Democrat, William Proxmire (D-Wis.), both of whom are critics of the rapidly rising defense budget.
"If Congess agrees with the administration's recommendation to spend a minimum of $1.46 trillion on defense in the next five years, it is even more unconscionable to allow costly inefficiencies to continue," Hatfield said.
The $1.46 trillion "includes absolutely none of the cost overruns" likely in the 37 weapons systems, he emphasized.
The cost growth for the 37 systems is the differnce between the Pentagon projected for them in January, 1980, and a year later.
Hatfield pointed to a chart showing that the Army's Hellfire missile increased 167 percent, adding $80 million to the Reagan budget.
The Army's Patriot missile increased 53 percent, adding $285 million to the budget. This is the same amount the administration wants to save by cutting a federal nutrition program that now serves about 700,000 pregnant women and young children. Hatfield said.
The $757 million cost growth in the M1 tank "equals the amount cut in energy conservation efforts under the administration's proposed . . . budget," he said.
He cited another Army program, the UH60 (Blackhawk) helicopter, that had a 49 percent unit price increase, adding $176 million to the budget.
Among 17 Navy programs, the F18 fighter increased 43 percent, adding $607 million. A nuclear aircraft carrier went up 14 percent ($365 million).
Among 10 Air Force systems, the Harm missile went up 44 percent ($27 million) and the F16 12 percent ($172 million).
Republican and Democratic members gave a skeptical hearing to Deputy Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci's outlining of a 31-step program for holding down defense costs.
Many of his suggestions "exactly mirror" proposals unveiled 15 years ago by then-defense secretary Robert S. McNamara and other reforms proposed since then, Proxmire said. "The next administration will call for reform and the next and the next," he said. "It has always been so."
The 31 reforms did not mention competition specifically, "the most critical item of the defense procurement cycle," Proxmire said.
Hatfield warned of "frightening" long-term cost increases, saying, "We are spending more and more dollars to buy less and less."
Chairman John C. Stennis (D-Miss.) of the Armed Services Committee, also a member of the Appropriations Committee, urged a joint, bipartisan Senate and House effort to eliminate defense waste.
"Frugality is more essential now than ever before," he said. "Public support for increased defense spending will not be sustained for the long haul if the Pentagon cannot keep the people's confidence that every dollar is spent responsibly and efficiently.
"I believe it is a most urgent requirement that we ensure that this additional spending does not result in inflated defense costs."