Will It Work?

President Obama has signed into law the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, a bill sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee. At the May 22 Rose Garden signing ceremony, the President emphasized in his remarks his interest in making needed reforms to defense acquisition, saying, “As Commander-in-Chief, I will do whatever it takes to defend the American people, … but I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars to keep this nation secure.” He said that last year the Government Accountability Office had “looked into 95 major defense projects and found cost overruns that totaled $295 billion,” and added, “Wasteful spending comes from exotic requirements, lack of oversight, and indefensible no-bid contracts that don’t make our troops or our country any safer.” Levin remarked that the legislation was “supported unanimously by both parties in both houses of Congress.” Among its provisions, Levin said, the legislation will establish an independent office for cost estimates, beef up engineering and testing capabilities, and other “strong measures” intended to “put major weapons programs on sound footing from the start.” Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a statement, acknowledged the “complex” nature of defense acquisition, and said that “we all understand that this bill is just a start” because it does focus on major programs, while “the other 80 percent of the acquisition system also has serious problems.” (Basics of the bill)