Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office uncorked its sixth annual "Assessments of Selected Weapons Programs" (pdf) report, which rates the progress and cost of various major weapons programs, and it isn’t pretty. The GAO found that of the 72 weapons programs it put under the microscope, “none of them had proceeded through system development meeting the best practices standards for mature technologies, stable design, or mature production processes by critical junctures of the program, each of which are essential for achieving planned cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.”
In total, 95 weapons systems have exceeded their budgets by a whopping $295 billion, the report found, and are scheduled to be delivered an average of 21 months late, five months longer than in 2000. This comes despite the fact that the Pentagon has doubled the amount of cash it is spending on these new systems, jumping from $790 billion in 2000 to $1.6 trillion last year. What’s more, overall procurement costs came in 26 percent above original estimates.
And what, you ask, of everyone’s favorite “system of systems,” the Future Combat System? The GAO doesn’t pull any punches.
The Army’s development cost estimate for FCS is much lower than two independent estimates and is based on less demonstrated knowledge than would normally be expected near the midpoint of development….
Only 2 of the program’s 44 technologies are fully mature and 30 are nearing full maturity. Based on the Army’s assessment, 6 technologies have demonstrated higher maturity since last year, but 3 are now assessed as less mature. All critical technologies may not be fully mature until the Army’s production decision in February 2013. The next independent verification of FCS critical technologies should be available in early 2009 for the preliminary design review.
While the numbers and overruns, taken separately, come as no surprise, seeing them all together gives you a sinking feeling. But please, come on in for the FCS section, and stay for the GAO’s views on the Joint Strike Fighter and Littoral Combat Ship programs. You can hear the PR departments typing up their rebuttals already...