We have been discussing how the U.S. military continues to waste billions with little accountability for failed programs or unneeded equipment. This includes tens of billions wasted in our ongoing wars. Much of this waste or lost resources has been covered up by intentional accounting tricks. No one appears to be disciplined, let alone fired, for billions of lost money and over-charges. And the beat goes on. The Senate Armed Services Committee has decided to actually investigate waste and is looking into a failed $1 billion software project for the U.S. Air Force that was implemented by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It was scrapped after it was disclosed that we would have to spend an additional $1.1 billion just to fix the unused system.
The Expeditionary Combat Support System was heralded as a “revolutionary” supply-chain management system that was sold to the people over at the Pentagon who did what they often do: poured money into an inoperative system with no one taking responsibility to actually stop program. Instead, they acted like Las Vegas gambler given an open marker by the house.
In the end, the Pentagon contractors and officials informed Congress that it would require $1.1 billion and eight years beyond the planned rollout date to fix the system. So we scrapped it. Another one billion evaporates and Pentagon officials just move on to the next program. No one is fired. No one is prosecuted.
By the way, this is just one of nine massive software systems ordered by the Pentagon, and six are running as late as 12 years beyond their planned rollout date. Twelve years. How many companies would tolerate such epic fails? The problem is that the military budget remains politically insulated from major cuts and Pentagon planners remains insulated from accountability for such failures.
It is also worth noting that, while it is remarkable to see the Senate moving on an issue of waste (though this is not wasteful manufacturing usually protected by members), the obscene waste in this program was reported in 2010 — three years ago.
Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Davis has publicly comforted the members, stating “I can understand the senators’ frustration. I can understand the fact that a billion-plus of taxpayer’s money went to essentially nothing.” Well, that makes me feel much better. We are cutting educational, scientific, and social programs for lack of a few million dollars but when a billion dollar is simply torched by the Air Force, General Davis understands our frustration.
The contractor responsible for this debacle is Computer Sciences of Falls Church, Virginia. The company received hundreds of millions of dollars and was has been cited for “poor schedule performance.” For most people, “poor schedule performance” results in missing meetings or a delay of weeks on a project. In the Pentagon, it results in years of delay and a billion dollars of waste.