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Getting Screwed Again

March 19, 1998 


The Project On Government Oversight's (POGO) October, 1997 Alert on "Acquisition Deform" in the Pentagon included a draft Inspector General (I.G.) report on spare parts. The contractor-driven acquisition "reforms" may be making it easier, rather than harder, for defense contractors to overcharge the government. In one case the I.G. discovered contractors charging the government $76.00 for .57 cent screws - overcharging by more than 13,000%.

Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight, commented: "We already know how to fix this problem. In fact, we fixed the problem in the late 80's. And yet, the key tools to keeping costs low were taken from us during the 'reinventing government' campaign. This confirms our worst fears that acquisition reform was really a deal for defense contractors, and not for taxpayers as it was portrayed. Now we're getting 'screwed' again." Brian continued, "The Pentagon is pretending they are buying commercial products but they are not paying commercial prices."

Official reaction to the hearings and audits drawing attention to the problem - but declaring it resolved - amounts to not seeing the forest for the trees. Danielle Brian explained, "While some Pentagon officials and Senators seem to recognize the existence of yet another procurement problem in the DOD they seem temporarily blinded when they wonder aloud why acquisition deform continues to happen. We know why we're back to where we were in the early 1980's. We know why we can expect to see the $600 toilet seats and $6,000 coffee makers coming back we've stripped Pentagon officials of the tools needed to be informed about prices by eliminating rules that require companies to provide cost data to the military."

POGO's report and resulting press coverage prompted a GAO investigation and Senate hearings. Following up on POGO's report, Sen. Harkin (D-IA) requested a GAO investigation, now completed, of the Pentagon's acquisition policy. Sen. Rick Santorum, Chair, Subcommittee on Acquisition & Technology, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Ranking Member of the same committee, wrote to both the Comptroller General of the U.S. and William S. Cohen, Secretary, DOD, requesting investigation and full implementation of procurement laws. Wednesday, March 18, 1998, the same subcommittee held hearings on the status of acquisition reform in the DOD.

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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