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Trump: Military officials ‘don’t know what they’re doing’ buying equipment

Donald Trump criticized the Defense Department for its history of costly acquisition programs during the debate Monday, suggesting those managing them have done so poorly.

“We buy products for our military and they come in at costs that are so far above what they were supposed to be, because we don’t have people that know what they’re doing,” he said, touting his efforts in private business while saying he would do better.

The issue is a frequent punching bag for politicians, especially Democrats who would prefer to see that money spent on domestic programs and libertarians. A variety of current defense projects are considered over budget, particularly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Pentagon also cancelled several projects during the Obama administration after runaway cost overruns that went back years.

The Defense Department has attempted to get a better handle on defense spending through efforts such as Better Buying Power plan, which calls for more contracts with financial incentives for a job well done, rather than strictly guaranteeing money to defense contractors. But the issue will remain central to many discussions about how the U.S. military should prepare for the future.

In January, the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies warned of a forthcoming “bow wave” of modernization that will cost tens of billions of dollars in each of the coming years. The most expensive programs include the Air Force’s future long-range strike bomber, the KC-46 tanker, the F-35 and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

“When the next administration takes office in January 2017, it will need to make many difficult choices to rationalize long-term defense modernization plans with the resources available,” the report said. “Understanding these long-term modernization plans — and the budgets associated with them — is important because the sooner adjustments are made the less disruptive and costly they will be.”

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