Hey Panetta, What’s Up With the Waste?

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Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware fired off a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today asking Panetta to “look in every nook and cranny of the federal government to make sure that we’re getting the most bang for our buck.” Panetta has been aggressively fighting the prospect of cuts to the Defense Department’s budget. But some cuts may be hard to avoid, given that the DoD’s base budget is around 40 percent larger than it was in fiscal year 2001, and that’s excluding the cost of the wars and adjusted for inflation.

Carper pointed to some areas where Panetta should focus his attention:

  • The DOD Inspector General recently released a report on the Department’s inability to recoup about $200 million in delinquent debts due to poor, but basic, record keeping. Some of these debts were incurred years ago but have yet to see collection.
  • The DOD’s Inspector General also released two reports this year describing how the Army has overpaid millions of dollars for spare parts. For an $8.00 helicopter door part, for example, the DOD paid $284.00. In another instance, the Army paid five times too much for a $1,500.00 rotor part that turned out to already have been in stock in the military warehouses.
  • Both DOD documents and GAO’s work have shown that, at any given time, there is roughly a billion dollars in spare parts on order that the Department simply does not need, but the Pentagon inventory system doesn’t allow for the order to be changed. This is in addition to the tens of billions of dollars in unneeded spare parts already in the military warehouses.
  • USA Today recently reported that the DOD racked up $720 million in late fees for shipping container leases by not returning the containers on time. This $720 million in late fees was on top of the cost of the actual leases.
  • The Commission on Wartime Contracting found earlier this month that there was an estimated $31 billion to $60 billion in DOD waste and fraud related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Commission further described these losses as largely avoidable.
  • The GAO has also detailed billions of dollars in cost-overruns for major weapon systems. The GAO noted that several factors, including major inefficiencies in the defense acquisition system, have led to $402 billion in total major weapon system cost overruns. This total is up from $42 billion in Fiscal Year 2000 and $295 billion in Fiscal Year 2007.