Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Social Madness

A year ago Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post Staff Writer, reported government auditors issuing a scathing review of dozens of the Pentagon's biggest weapons systems. They found ships, aircraft and satellites billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

The Government Accountability Office found 95 major systems that exceeded their budgets by some $295 billion--totaling $1.6 trillion. Most were delivered almost two years late on average, and none of the systems looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages.

Auditors admitted the Defense Department showed few signs of improvement since the GAO began issuing its annual assessments of selected weapons systems six years ago. "It's not getting any better by any means," concluded Michael Sullivan, director of the GAO's acquisition and sourcing team. "It's taking longer and costing more."

A Pentagon spokesman issued a written statement saying, "We'd like to look at what GAO has said, and at the appropriate time make an informed comment." The Pentagon doubled the amount committed to new systems, from $790 billion in 2000 to $1.6 trillion last year, according to the 205-page GAO report. Total acquisition costs in 2007 for major defense programs increased 26 percent from first estimates. In 2000, 75 programs had cost increases totaling 6 percent. Development costs in 2007 for the systems rose 40 percent from initial projections, compared with 27 percent in 2000. Current programs are delivered 21 months late on average, five months later than in 2000.

"In most cases, programs also failed to deliver capabilities when promised -- often forcing war fighters to spend additional funds on maintaining" existing weapons systems, the report says.

The GAO chose 72 of the 95 systems to examine, based on high-dollar value and congressional interest. The various systems were at different stages of the acquisition process over the last year.

The report details projects like the Navy's $5.2 billion Littoral Combat Ship, which has had such extensive troubles that the service expects the cost of its first two ships to exceed their combined budget of $472 million by more than 100 percent. The Navy canceled construction of the planned third and fourth ships by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, the prime contractors on the project.

The government is facing higher development costs on eight major programs, including Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter and Boeing's Future Combat Systems, a technology to connect unmanned aircraft and vehicles. The prices for those two programs have risen 36 percent and 40 percent, respectively, from the initial contracts, the GAO said, partly because the government wants "new and unproven technologies" and did not undertake early analysis to make sure its requirements could be met.

In a statement, Lockheed said that the Joint Strike Fighter "is performing solidly, making outstanding technical progress in the context of the most complex aircraft ever built" and that "the bedrock and the cornerstone" of the F-35 program have been "affordability and cost containment."

In another case, the initial contract target price of Boeing's program to modernize avionics in the C-130 cargo plane is expected to skyrocket 323 percent, to $2 billion. Another Boeing program, for a radio system, is up 310 percent, to $966 million."Boeing's commitment is to deliver on our promises to our military customers and meeting their requirements in the most cost-effective way possible," the company said in a statement.

A thoughtful reading of such reports easily brings one to conclude that there will always be wars and rumors of war, not because the Bible says it, but because it is highly profitable. It provides lucrative wealth, good jobs for the economy, and justification for its maintenance. The simple fact is we prefer to anchor our society on money-makers; arms manufacturing needs war to justify such manufacturing, even if it is blood money. It also needs the political support of those who utilize terror as a means of controlling those who would eliminate the wide distribution of arms.

The issue weaves its way right down to Main Street, USA. Early in 2008 a young Marine came home on leave. Having survived the war in Iraq, he was so wary of street crime in his home town that he carried only $8 to avoid becoming a robbery target. Despite his caution, Lance Cpl. Robert Crutchfield, 21, was shot point-blank in the neck during a robbery at a bus stop. Feeding and breathing tubes kept him alive 4 1/2 months, until he died of an infection on May 18, 2008--corollary damages from our passionate propagation of guns and violence.

We will have peace only when we work at changing the hearts of men. When the ancient Wiseman suggested madness is in their hearts while they live, I wonder: was he talking about the perpetrators or those of us who allow such anti-social behavior (Ecclesiastes 9:3) …?
From Warner’s World, Wayne

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