Coats Highlights Wasteful Defense Spending on Weapons Acquisition

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Weapons Acquisition System, which is the process by which the DOD procures weapons systems or related items from various defense contractors.

This process includes the design, development, deployment and disposal of weapons used by our military. Coats said the current process needs to be reformed because it is wasting taxpayer dollars.

“As a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have long supported a strong national defense, and I am well aware of the important role that our weapons systems play in the defense of our nation,” said Coats. “However, that doesn’t mean that the current acquisition process cannot be improved.”

Since 1990, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has included DOD’s Weapons Acquisition System on its annual “High Risk List” due to the program’s vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

One problem with the current system is that significant dollars are spent on weapons programs that end up never being finished. Between 2001 and 2011, the DOD spent $46 billion on a dozen different weapons programs that were never finished.

“One example of a program that was initiated but never finished is the development of a new helicopter for the president,” said Coats. “After 9/11, it became clear that Marine One was outdated, especially its communications and security capabilities, and DOD initiated an effort to build a new helicopter. Without appropriate guidelines, the DOD tacked on many more ‘add-ons’ over the years and ultimately the new helicopter weighed so much that its mission capability was compromised. It might seem obvious that billions should not be spent on a new helicopter without a complete design, but unfortunately this is exactly what happened. Ultimately, the entire project was scrapped in 2009, costing taxpayers $3.7 billion.”

Coats said that this failed helicopter is not an outlier.

“In a 2014 report, the GAO found that problems like this have persisted within weapons acquisition for decades,” said Coats. “GAO found that many defense programs are launched before officials have enough information needed to determine whether the proposed program is even viable. The GAO and military experts have emphasized the need to increase DOD staff training on how to properly estimate project needs and technological capabilities before launching a project.”

Coats said that the legislation currently under consideration in the Senate – the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 – would make important reforms to the DOD acquisition process.

“This legislation would reform the current regulatory process to make it easier for more companies to compete for DOD contracts, in order to boost competition and lower costs,” said Coats. “Additionally, the bill would increase training for those at the DOD who plan and oversee acquisitions projects, and it would put greater emphasis on technological innovation, which could help save money while spearheading new, cutting-edge defense systems.”

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