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Every spring, the Government Accountability Office reports to Congress on how well the Pentagon’s major weapons programs are progressing, and its conclusions have not been flattering for a long time. This year’s report states again that while there have been some improvements, most of the programs that GAO examined in detail are not using wise procurement practices, such as ensuring that “requirements and resources” match, that the weapons designs are stable, and that the manufacturing processes are “mature.” It predicted further cost increases and schedule slippages. Here are a few key data in the 188-page report:


Number of programs that have at least doubled in cost since they were started


Number of programs that have at least tripled in cost since they were started


Number of programs that have at least quadrupled in cost since they were started

$1.58 trillion

The cost of all 96 major programs

$74.4 billion

How much these major programs increased in cost in 2011

$447 billion

How much more these major weapons programs are expected to cost than initially estimated


How many major shipbuilding programs studied by the GAO had mature technologies in hand prior to the start of final design work


How many major programs have set required “affordability” targets


How much of last year’s cost increases were incurred by a single program: the Joint Strike Fighter


How many programs in which the costs of each unit — i.e. plane, tank, missile — went up last year

$35 billion

How much the Joint Strike Fighter’s costs increased last year due to what the GAO called “manufacturing inefficiencies, parts shortages, and quality issues”

440 million

Number of man-hours needed to complete one aircraft carrier, the CVN 78


The increase in the C130J air transport program’s total cost since it started

Source: General Accountability Office, “Defense Acquisitions, Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs,” March 2012.

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