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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Letter to House Armed Services Committee on 2004 Defense Authorization

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May 2, 2003

Congressman Duncan Hunter
Chairman, Armed Services Committee
2265 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Ike Skelton
Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee
2206 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representatives Hunter and Skelton:

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has been closely monitoring Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's attempts to transform the U.S. military into a more relevant and cost-effective fighting force. POGO has been encouraged by Secretary Rumsfeld's seeming determination to eliminate such overpriced and unneeded weapons as the Crusader Armored Vehicle.

However, as your committee begins its markup of the FY2004 defense authorization bill, we feel compelled to notify you that we are concerned that some of the Department of Defense's "transformation" legislative proposals would not be in the interests of ensuring the financial transparency and oversight of billions of dollars in weapons systems development and acquisition.

On the one hand, POGO supports one of the major DoD legislative proposals, a plan to transfer 300,000 DoD military jobs to the civilian sector. This proposal could reap huge savings for the taxpayers.

However, there are other provisions of the DoD draft legislation that we believe would be bad for Congress and the taxpayers. They include:

  • A DoD request to repeal a requirement that the Secretaries of the military departments notify Congress within 45 days of any determination that a current program acquisition unit cost has increased by at least 15 percent.

    While DoD says this reporting requirement of significant cost increases is "overly burdensome," POGO feels it is critical that Congress and the taxpayers be kept abreast of major program cost growth. Not only does the long-time Congressional requirement encourage transparency and accountability, it also can act as a hammer that underscores the importance of defense contractors hitting their financial targets.

  • A DoD proposal that quarterly Selected Acquisition Reports no longer be given to Congress. The SARs, which provide cost, schedule and performance information on major weapons programs, have historically been a cornerstone for the monitoring of weapons systems by Congress, the media, and groups like POGO. Their elimination would deal a serious blow against open government.

    For instance, the latest round of SARs revealed a disturbing story of out-of-control weapons systems unit cost escalation for programs ranging from the F/A-22 tactical fighter to the Comanche helicopter. This important information could have been kept out of the public debate were it not for the SARs.

  • Proposals aimed at creating greater financial and programmatic flexibility for the Missile Defense Agency, which oversees the nation's multi-billion-dollar missile defense program. We feel that suggested revisions to law in this area would also have serious adverse consequences to effective weapons development and acquisition.

    In July 2002, POGO issued a report, "Big Dreams Still Need Oversight: Missile Defense Testing and Financial Accountability Are Being Circumvented," warning Congress and the taxpayers of the perils of this policy shift that first surfaced publicly in a January 2002 memo written by Secretary Rumsfeld.

    Now DoD is attempting to codify its earlier internal directive. Not only would such a move give the head of the Missile Defense Agency unchecked financial discretion, it also could allow the agency to deploy missiles in silos being constructed in Alaska as early as 2004 without first being evaluated by the Pentagon's independent tester, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

We hope that these and other provisions of the DoD draft legislation will be carefully and closely scrutinized by your Committee and other members of Congress. POGO's interest in this matter is that the taxpayers get a fair shake from defense contractors, and that the nation's fighting men and women are given weapons that are safe and effective.

Sincerely,


Danielle Brian
Executive Director

cc: House Armed Services Committee Members 

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