WASHINGTON — A botched U.S. Air Force network upgrade that wasted $745 million dollars. American military equipment for Iraqis lost. Buy-American laws misinterpreted.
These are a handful of government blunders targeted by Sen. Jim Lankford’s latest “Federal Fumbles” report, released Monday. Lankford, R-Olka., sits on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“We have got to pay attention to debt and deficit,” Lankford said at a news conference Monday. “If we are going to get control of our spending, if we’re going to manage our economy and our spending better, there are specific ways to do it.”
The report ridiculed dozens of examples of government waste, most outside the military, including $30,000 for a production of Doggie Hamlet and the IRS hiring back 824 people who were previously terminated.
The report dinged the Air Force for terminating the contract for its Air Operations Center network upgrade after spending $745 million — double the cost it projected in 2016. Lankford called for “those who failed to properly plan this project” be “demoted or fired to prevent the same mistake again.”
The Air Force, when it announced it would cancel the contract with Northrop Grumman, said it would partner with the Department of Defense’s innovation unit to find a quicker way to field the update.
The DoD could not track more than $1 billion in equipment — including small arms, mortars and Humvees — the U.S. bought for Iraqi security forces, the agency’s inspector general found earlier this year.
“Before allocating funds in the future, Congress should work with the DOD to put in place a system to track equipment from purchase to transfer and every step in between,” Lankford’s report says.
Contracting personnel at the Defense Logistics Agency failed to comply with buy-American laws — the Berry Amendment — in 19 contracts, valued at $453.2 million, out of 32 contracts reviewed.
Lankford recommends agencies put processes in place to follow the rules, saying: “The fumble here is a lack of training at DOD acquisition and contracting offices on federal spending requirements. The entire federal government should purchase American-made goods with American tax dollars.”
The report spotlighted how the DoD’s Law Enforcement Support Office gave access to sensitive equipment to a fake police agency during a Government Accountability Office sting. The GAO concluded the DoD has inadequate controls for sensitive gear, like night vision goggles, simulated rifles and simulated pipe bombs.
The widely reported incident was ammunition for opponents of the Trump administration’s restart of surplus military equipment transfers to U.S. civilian law enforcement agencies.
Lankford, on the other hand, opined: “There is nothing wrong with the DOD disposing of unnecessary equipment and property.
“The DOD should put in place clear standards for the disposal of excess property and then ensure those policies are actually followed.”
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.