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Pentagon overspending, delays getting worse, auditors find

  • Story Highlights
  • Key Pentagon programs running $295 billion over budget, auditors found
  • Delays increasing to 21 months from 15 months, government watchdog found
  • Nearly $118 is spent for every $100 budgeted by the Defense Department
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is $295 billion over budget on dozens of key programs and taking more time to deliver the systems to the front lines, according to a report released by a government watchdog agency.

Improvements to the F-22A Raptor are running over budget, according to a GAO report released Monday.

The Defense Department programs suffering from cost overruns include a new presidential helicopter, unmanned aerial drones and improvements to the F-22A Raptor, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Monday.

Delays in delivering the systems were averaging 21 months, up from the 16 months it was when the GAO released its first report on defense acquisitions six years ago.

That time lag is forcing the military to keep equipment in use longer than planned, which is itself driving up costs, the report said.

The cost overruns mean the Pentagon is spending just over $118 for every $100 it budgeted.

The GAO couched its findings in management jargon -- calling the Pentagon's acquisitions "increasingly suboptimal" -- but its conclusion is blunt: The situation "needs to be corrected."

A Pentagon spokesman said the department needs time to study the report before commenting.

"Since the report came out just yesterday afternoon, we'd like to look at what GAO has said and then at the appropriate time make an informed comment," spokesman Chris Isleib said.

The GAO studied 72 programs chosen for their large budgets, congressional interest and stage of delivery. Not a single one met standards for best practices in development, the agency said.

The high-profile new presidential Marine One helicopter has been rebudgeted in such a way that the GAO said it cannot even calculate what it will cost. It appears likely to come in at least $1 billion over initial estimates, according to the watchdog agency.

The Pentagon spends too much on programs because it does not have enough information, the report stated.

Department of Defense "programs continue to proceed through critical junctures with knowledge gaps that expose programs to significant, unnecessary technology, design and production risks," leading to higher costs and delays, it said.

The Pentagon is not getting better in this regard, the GAO warns, concluding that "DOD programs are likely to continue to experience a cascade of negative effects that affect both costs and schedules."

The report urged the Pentagon to make better informed decisions. "This type of strategy is essential for getting better outcomes for DOD programs."

Among key findings of the report are:

  • More than 6 in 10 programs changed requirements after development began.
  • Fewer than half of program managers stay in their jobs as long as Department of Defense policy recommends.
  • Nearly half the staff members working on the programs are not government employees.
  • About half of all programs required more than a 25 percent increase in the amount of software code initially expected.
  • Research and development costs came in 40 percent higher than first estimates, while total costs per system were 26 percent higher. Both measures are getting worse rather than better over time.
  • The report is "Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, GAO-08-467SP, March 31, 2008." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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