Defense Acquisition Reform

We all know how Washington likes to talk and talk about a problem, but never get around to doing something about it. Defense acquisition reform is one of those problems that have been with us forever. To put it simply, the process by which the Pentagon purchases the fighter planes, combat ships, and other advanced weapons systems our young men and women in uniform use every day is broke. Too many weapons systems wildly exceed initial cost estimates and incur multiple schedule delays, not only costing the American taxpayer serious money, but also undermining our national security because we can't spend those precious dollars on things that will help our military personnel. To take just one example, the Government Accountability Office estimated last year that the Pentagon wasted almost $300 billion dollars in cost overruns on major weapons programs currently in development.  Defense acquisition reform is a technical and dry subject, but it really matters if we want to modernize our military in a rational and cost-efficient manner.

Fortunately, this week the Senate took decisive action in a first step toward fixing that problem. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, and the forceful endorsement of President Obama, the Senate passed the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act.  The legislation focuses on addressing key deficiencies in the early stages of a weapon acquisition, when many of the seeds are planted for eventual cost overruns and schedule delays. However, I didn't think the bill went far enough in forcing real discipline on the Pentagon. So I was happy to join my friend and colleague, Claire McCaskill, in sponsoring a series of amendments to further strengthen the safeguards in this legislation.  Those three amendments were adopted by voice vote and are part of the final bill. 

What matters, at the end of the day, is not just the dollars we save. We cannot continue paying excess dollars on out of control weapons acquisition programs while we shortchange our troops on time at home from extended deployments and the full range of benefits they and their families deserve. That is why the Senate's action this week was so important, and I am happy to have played a small part in further strengthening the legislation.

A copy of my floor speech is posted here.

Government Reform