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US taxpayers shelling out billions for faulty weapons

Published time: April 25, 2012 11:21
Edited time: April 25, 2012 15:21
In this undated image released by the US Navy, the new F-35C Joint Strike Fighter is seen during a test flight over the state of Maryland (AFP Photo / US NAVY / HO)

In this undated image released by the US Navy, the new F-35C Joint Strike Fighter is seen during a test flight over the state of Maryland (AFP Photo / US NAVY / HO)

The Pentagon has frittered away billions in taxpayer cash on not fully tested arms, a government watchdog report says. While the policy grants the military access to cutting-edge technology, the public can be left footing the bill for faulty weapons.

A report issued by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Friday shed light on the controversial policy of “concurrency” which approves untested weapons for production and use.

“While some concurrency is understandable, committing to product development before requirements are understood and technologies mature, or committing to production and fielding before development is complete, is a high-risk strategy that often results in performance shortfalls, unexpected cost increases, schedule delays and test problems,” said the report.

The investigations focused specifically on the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) that has spent over $80 billion since its creation in 2002.

Last year, design faults were discovered in the US military’s missile defense mechanism, requiring an overhaul. The GAO estimates that the cost of testing the new system following the changes has increased “from $236 million to about $1 billion.”

The GAO also warned Congress that faults in the new jet model Joint Strike Fighter will allegedly require “unprecedented funding” if it is to be put into action on US aircraft carriers. The craft’s development is already over-budget by approximately $15 billion.

The Pentagon’s head weapons buyer Frank Kendall branded the government’s plans to purchase the craft in spite of soaring costs “acquisition malpractice.”

The report concludes that the US Department of Defense should “reduce concurrency” with a view to minimizing monetary losses through faulty equipment.

In addition it said that the Department of Defense had consistently failed to address “implications for concurrency in the future” as stipulated in the report.

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World's largest military drain


The US weapons budget is the largest in the world, the government reportedly dedicating $711 billion to military spending in 2011 according to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The GAO did not release an audit of US military spending in 2011 on the basis that there “were widespread internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations” that prevented it from an accurate calculation.

Where military spending is concerned, the US government has been dogged by accusations of unprecedented wastage and fraud. An investigation carried out in September 2009 by the Wartime Contracting Commission revealed that between $31 and $60 billion of funds had been lost through mismanagement and fraud during the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration severely underestimated the cost of the latter campaign, which meant US citizens paying for the extra expenditure in raised taxes.

In spite of the economic downturn the US increased its military budget by $13 billion in 2011, drawing upon taxpayers’ funds.

According to projections made by the US Congress Joint Economic Committee, the average American family is expected to pay $46,000 in raised taxes to foot the bill for the country’s overstretched military.

The Obama administration has made a pact with the Afghan government to support the country’s developing security forces for up to a decade after the official US troop withdrawal in 2014. If the funding is approved by Congress, Washington will be obliged to supply $4 billion to Afghanistan annually.

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