Money for Nothing

Dire Straits

...and Chicks for Free

A report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that few federal agencies follow recently revised guidelines set forth by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for awarding contract bonus fees, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars per year.

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Wartime Contracting Commission Warns Congress of Potential Significant Waste

At What Cost?

At a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing yesterday morning, members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan provided an interim report warning of potential contracting waste, fraud and abuse during the future drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq and subsequent surge in Afghanistan.

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Acquisition Experts of Little Help to Congress on Defense Reform

U.S. Congress

Last Wednesday morning, I attended a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing convened by the recently formed Defense Acquisition Reform Panel. The three witnesses – Gordon R. England, a two-time Secretary of the Navy and former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., a retired Navy admiral and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Ronald T. Kadish, a retired Air Force Lieutenant General – all emphasized the same abstract fix and provided little, if any, concrete guidance.

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Defense Acquisition Reform: Where Do We Stand?

The Pentagon

Recent events are pointing to a shift by the Department of Defense (DOD) and at least one of the branches of the military in the way they will implement future government contracts. The passage of a new law, the planned addition of much-needed acquisition personnel at DOD – by far the government's largest contracting agency – and an intended top-to-bottom overhaul of the Air Force's procurement process are all geared toward reforming a system ripe with waste, fraud, and abuse. Despite this, barriers remain and these reforms will face critical challenges ahead.

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Fairly Weak Acquisition Reform Legislation Makes Its Debut

M-1A1 Abrams

Yesterday, the conference committee assembled to hash out a final weapons acquisition reform bill released the new legislation and a summary report after the two sides came to agreement on Tuesday over the few issues of contention. We are currently going through the language of the bill to assess the final product, but it looks as though the conferees did not strengthen the potentially disastrous Murray amendment, and chose an independent cost analyst reporting to the Secretary of Defense over just an assistant to the secretary. If we catch anything appalling, we will post it, or, if you read through and see anything, please post your comments.

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Meager DOD Acquisition Reform Moves to Conference

F-35 JSF

Following up on my previous week's post on DOD reform, the House unanimously passed its version of a bill for defense acquisition reform (H.R. 2101) last Wednesday. With the Senate version of the bill (S. 454) having already passed, both houses quickly moved into conference, as President Obama has asked that the legislation be on his desk before lawmakers break for their Memorial Day recess next week. With important differences between the two bills, the conference process will largely determine whether the final product helps create genuine reform within the Pentagon or merely provides lawmakers with another "accomplishment" to tout to their constituents when they return to their respective districts or states. As things look right now, the latter seems much more likely.

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Congress Moves Forward with Imperfect Reform of DOD Acquisition Process

F-22 Raptor

Yesterday, Congress took an imperfect step forward with overhauling the Defense Department's major weapons acquisition process. The House Armed Services Committee moved their reform bill, H.R. 2101, the Weapons Acquisition System Reform Through Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Oversight (WASTE TKO) Act, through mark-up by a 59-0 margin. A similar acquisition reform bill introduced by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) unanimously passed the full Senate. Before passage of the bill, however, senators agreed to an amendment that, if strengthened in conference, would essentially nullify the purpose of acquisition review.

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Congress Strips Offending Tax Provision, Passes Omnibus Bill

Last week Congress reconvened for a second lame duck session. They succeeded in stripping controversial tax language from the bill and on Dec. 8 the President finally signed it, officially bringing the much delayed FY 2005 appropriations process to a close. The omnibus bill combines nine appropriations bills Congress was unable to finish working on before the end of the fiscal year, along with thousands of provisions and riders.

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More Budget Deficit Estimates Released

FY 2002 Appropriations Update Congress completed its work on the last 3 FY 2002 appropriations bills (Defense, Foreign Operations, and Labor-HHS-Education) on December 21 and the President is expected to sign all three of them and bring the appropriations season to an official completion. According to, the bills are being readied for the President's signature and he is expected to sign them on January 10, when the Continuing Resolution - passed on December 20 - expires. Though estimates by Democrats and Republicans of the size of the deficits differ, and will continue to grow substantially depending on the amount of additional homeland security and defense spending approved this year, both sides agree that the deficit will likely be at least $15 billion -- the Democrats are predicting it could be as large as $70 billion.

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