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Spare Parts Horror Stories, Part II and III: $127 Washer Shows Military Procurement Still Bloated - and, Pentagon Budgets an Additional $300 Million for Disastrous Pioneer UAV

January 27, 1997 


Ten years ago the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), then the Project on Military Procurement, revealed outrageously overpriced coffee pots and other DOD waste that initiated years of procurement "reform." Our hopes of comprehensive reform have been dashed. The Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) case shows military waste is alive and well. Pioneer's Navy support unit found that "in many cases the government has been paying the prime contractor as much as fifty times the cost of hardware that can be procured directly from the original manufacture[r]."

And now, the story gets worse ... A January 16th Defense Daily story details the Pentagon's plans to spend an additional $300 million on its UAV programs. The Pioneer UAV program is targeted to receive a major portion of this funding. POGO wonders how the Pentagon can justify spending $300 million tax-payer dollars on a program that has suffered numerous crashes and approximately 18 "mishaps" a year. The recent funding boost means that the Pentagon is continuing and enlarging its support for an overpriced program--the Pioneer--which crashes more than it flies.

POGO and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are calling on the DOD Inspector General's Office to investigate the program, demand reimbursement of all overcharges and stop all major new expenditures on the program until procurement problems are fixed.

Internal Navy documents on the Pioneer aircraft reveal that outrageously priced washers and bolts are still around--reminiscent of the $2,043 nut POGO revealed in 1984. Multiple internal investigations of the Pioneer program have yet to recover overcharges, and the Congressional subcommittee that began investigating the Pioneer program in 1994 has been abolished.

Ineffective internal supervision and reduced Congressional oversight have allowed contractors to continue stealing taxpayers' money. The results are predictable and deadly: weapons cost too much and don't work--in Bosnia alone, four Pioneers have crashed.

Marcus Corbin, POGO Defense Specialist noted, "We used to say that the aircraft bought by the Defense Department were a collection of overpriced spare parts flying in close formation. This is still the case--but the Pioneer does more crashing than flying."

Since the Navy can't seem to police itself, POGO and Representative DeFazio are calling on the DOD Inspector General to investigate the program, collect money overcharged by defense contractors and keep them from receiving any more government contracts. Putting the DOD on a "budgetary diet" might force them to break the cycle of institutionalized waste.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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