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Public Statements

Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act Of 2009 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, first of all, let me relay my appreciation to both the chairman and the ranking member for this bill. It does a lot of things that needed to be done for a long time. I would also say it will not do anything unless the President puts in the right person who has the right character; that is, mean as all get out, thorough, and comprehensive in what they are going to do and plans on staying there for a long time.

The other points I wanted to make, and I will be brief--really there are two. I have listened to all of this debate, not necessarily here but from my office. There is one thing that is missing in the debate. We have had the problem with contractors, and there is a problem with the Pentagon. But not once did I hear there is a problem with us.

The real reason we have gotten into trouble to the degree we have is because we have not done the oversight. We have not done our job. So we are seeing a great response now by the leadership of the Armed Services Committee to do some of the right things. But had we been doing our job, much of what we see in terms of failed major procurement systems, lack of transparency, we could have had that transparency had we been doing the oversight.

I will give you an example. Senator Carper and I did the transparency on the C-5 retrofit, and we had a supposed Nunn-McCurdy breach when, in fact, there was not a Nunn-McCurdy breach. The people wanted there to be a Nunn-McCurdy breach. The fact is, we could in fact cut down costs, create transparency, not just with the effects of what this bill is going to do, but if we are much more aggressive.

The last point I will make is that there is no question that the earmarking process hampers us far more than it helps us in the Pentagon. When we see the amount of time that is spent on most projects versus oversight, the American taxpayers are getting shortchanged. They are just getting shortchanged.

I hope people will recognize that although sometimes earmarks turn out to be fantastic, the vast majority of times they do not, and we spend staff time doing that rather than managing what is happening there today.

Our No. 1 charge under the Constitution is the defense of this country, and we do not just spend $500 billion on that or $600 billion. When we add up everything we spend, it comes--if we count nuclear weapons maintenance and we count the research for nuclear warheads, if we count everything that goes through, we are about at $1 trillion. When we add everything else, that comes to that. And we are highly inefficient.

I am very appreciative with what is happening within this bill. But I think the American public ought to recognize that the earmarking process in Congress has hurt the Defense Department because it has taken away from us doing our regular job.

No. 2, Congress has hurt our procurement and our ability to defend ourselves because we are not doing the work we need to be doing, the oversight on a monthly basis on major programs. We cannot depend on IGs and the GAO. We have to ask them: Are you on time? Are you meeting the schedule we need to do this because we are putting one-third of our assets that we expend every year into defense? It is rich. And when we pay out $7, $8 billion for performance contracts that the performance contractor did not make, did not meet the requirements, but we pay it anyhow, we are the ones who allow that to happen.

Finally, the last point I will make: Until we address the revolving door of working in the Pentagon and going to work for a contractor and how that impacts what people do in terms of procurement and major decisions, we are not going to solve this problem. Whether it is an ethical constraint or a positive statement of principles, somehow we have to address that issue because we cannot blame the people who are looking for their next job to be less than perfectly independent in this job if, in fact, it is going to affect their future.

So we have not addressed that in this bill, but that is still one of the things that has to be addressed because it is problematic not only in terms of how well we do but what we get for what we actually pay out.

Again, I thank the chairman and ranking member. I appreciate their work. I appreciate them taking our amendment. My hope is that when we combine what we have put forward with a--I cannot use the word I want to use on the Senate floor--but someone of significantly tough demeanor to ramrod this through there, that, in fact, we will see great savings, better performance, and better procurement for the American taxpayers.

I yield the floor.


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