Legislation Includes Carper Amendment to Improve DOD's Cost Oversight Process
May 07 2009
WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today hailed passage of what he called one of the most significant congressional efforts to reduce the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in inefficient weapons development, highlighting a provision he authored to halt ineffective programs.
The Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, which was introduced by Senate Armed Services leadership and Sen. Carper cosponsored, creates new oversight tools to help stop cost overruns before they happen.
“In this time of economic instability, we need to make sure that every dollar we collect from the taxpayers is spent in a cost effective manner—and our defense dollars are no different,” said Sen. Carper. “This bill includes significant cost-cutting reforms to help Congress and the Department of Defense stop program overruns before they ever happen.”
As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, Sen. Carper held a hearing last year on major Department of Defense (DOD) cost overruns in which the Government Accountability Office testified that the military’s largest weapons systems had almost $295 billion in cost growth during their development.
The Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 (S. 454) includes the following key provisions:
- The bill creates a Director of Independent Cost Assessment who is answerable to the Secretary of Defense and will determine unbiased and accurate cost assessments for defense programs.
- Under current law, if a weapon system’s cost grows by more the 50 percent over its original estimate, then it triggers a Nunn-McCurdy breach, a mechanism used to notify Congress of the cost overrun. For the program to continue, DOD must then certify that program is essential to national security and can move forward in a cost-effective way. Under the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, DOD would also require the program to repeat its most recent acquisition phase, which would incentivize defense companies to provide accurate cost assessments from the start that companies can adhere to through development.
- The legislation passed by the Senate also creates a Director of Development Testing and Evaluation, a senior position within DOD who would monitor the maturity of a weapon system’s technology in the development phase of the process, and require the Pentagon’s chief engineering officer conduct periodic assessments of these programs’ technology and capabilities.
- Sen. Carper’s amendment—included in the final bill—requires these two top DOD officials to work together in their technology assessments in order to ensure that a project cost’s would remain low and the project’s technology is mature enough to move to its next stage.
“Our weapon systems cost enough and are critical enough to our national security that we must get them right the first time around,” Sen. Carper said. “My amendment ensures that the right department officials are working together to make sure that the weapon systems we develop are ready for mass production.”
After passing the bill this afternoon 93-0, the Senate will await the passage of a comparable House bill to reconcile differences before sending final legislation to the President to be signed into law.