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A Pentagon contract with Oshkosh Corp. to make mine-resistant vehicles to protect Army and Marine Corps soldiers in Afghanistan is ahead of schedule, the Government Accountability Office says in an unusually complimentary report about a Defense Department contract.

“The program has been successful, delivering well-performing vehicles ahead of schedule,” the watchdog report says. The GAO usually focuses on problematic military contracts that are riddled with delays and growing costs but the watchdog did not identify any major problems with the Oshkosh vehicle contract.

Oshkosh won a $12.5 billion contract to build nearly 12,000 mine-resistant vehicles and deliver them to Afghanistan by the end of 2010. It is also producing another type of lightweight, high-protection vehicle that is due to be completed in 2011 and is a possible replacement for the Humvee. Both types of vehicles are designed to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices, underbody mines, and small arms fire.

“Key challenges are whether the vehicle can provide the performance and reliability required yet stay within the weight limits for helicopter transport. Difficult tradeoffs in requirements may be necessary,” the GAO said. “At this point, it is a well-structured program with desirable features like a competitive technology development phase.”

The GAO also noted that the Pentagon lacks a strategy for investing in the protective vehicles and recommended an agency-wide plan put in place.

FAST FACT: Each mine-resistant vehicle costs about $445,000 to produce and the light-joint vehicle will cost around $322,000, compared to the Pentagon’s older Humvee vehicle, which costs about $186,000 to make.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities. Congressional Research Service reports, which prepared for lawmakers but not made public, were provided by the Center for Democracy and Technology.


* The U.S. Mint held 245.2 million troy ounces of gold valued at $320.6 billion and 7 million troy ounces of silver valued at $156.1 million on Sept. 30, 2010. The amounts held in sealed vaults were unchanged from Sept. 30, 2009, but the values reflected an increase in market prices (OIG).

* The March failure of Bank of Hiawassee, which was due mostly to weak board and management oversight of construction loans, will cost the federal insurance fund $129.7 million or about one-third of the bank’s total assets (OIG).


* U.S. law requires biofuels usage, now at 9 billion gallons annually, to soar to 36 billion gallons annually in 2022. That mandated expansion raises questions about the ability of the industry to create biofuels from non-corn sources and to develop the trucks, pipelines, pumps, and other infrastructure needed to deliver a growing amount of biofuels to consumers (Congressional Research Service).

* Although the EPA issued a 2006 rule to clarify that Clean Water Act permits are not required for using pesticides, court rulings have overturned it and Congress may have to get involved (Congressional Research Service).

* The Arctic is an emerging potential security issue because melting ice and growing sea traffic means more nations are looking at maintaining a military presence in the high north, including the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard (Congressional Research Service).

* State and local governments have boosted security of U.S. drinking water supplies but there are still questions about whether more federal requirements and funding are needed to protect water and the status of research to help water systems detect potential contaminants (Congressional Research Service).

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