Levin Proposes New Pentagon Cost Office

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has recommended the creation of an independent cost assessor for major Department of Defense weapons programs. During a hearing of the committee June 3 with John Young, the Pentagon’s acquisition czar, Levin said a fundamental change is needed in DOD’s acquisition culture. He cited a new Government Accountability Office report that finds that cost estimates on 95 major defense acquisition programs in Fiscal 2007 had grown by nearly $300 billion, or 120 percent, over their initial projections. (Click here for GAO’s report.) In current dollars, he said, this amount would suffice to buy 500 F-35 stealth fighters at $100 million each, two aircraft carriers, eight Virginia-class submarines, 500 V-22 tiltrotor aircraft, and 10,000 mine resistant ambush protected vehicles—and amazingly, still leave enough left over to cover the Army’s entire $130 billion Future Combat Systems program. Accordingly, Levin said he plans to introduce an amendment to the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill that would establish a “director of independent cost assessment” within DOD with authority and responsibility similar to the director of operational test and evaluation. Young reacted tentatively to the proposal (see below).