2004-07-24 - 3:14 p.m.
After conducting a lengthy investigation set off by a whistle-blower's phone call, the inspector general's office concluded that the Air Force used an inappropriate procedure to buy the C-130J transport planes from Lockheed Martin Corp. and then mismanaged its production. It also said that senior Defense Department weapons-acquisition officials failed to provide the program with "effective oversight."
...the Air Force had circumvented the required procedures to sign a contract costing from hundreds of millions to several billions of dollars more than necessary.
…Other military officials confirmed yesterday that the planes have not passed key readiness tests, and so no C-130J has been used as planned by the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard or the Marine Corps in combat zones or military assaults. Specially modified versions have also not been approved for psychological operations and electronic warfare or for monitoring hurricanes.
Air Force and reserve officials said yesterday that pilots are training for these functions and that the planes may be ready for more missions within the next year or so. Lt. Col. Guy Walsh, commander of the 175th Wing of the Maryland National Guard in Baltimore, confirmed that the C-130J transport planes that the wing has had since 1999 or 2000 are still not rated as mission-ready and are undergoing modifications at their base. But he said that "the progress I've seen has been tremendous."
Maj. Wayne Bunker of the Marine Corps Aerial Refueler and Transport Squadron 252, based in Cherry Point, N.C., said he has a "favorable" attitude toward the dozen new C-130Js that have been based there for the past 18 months. But, he said, that"it's not desirable" to be unable to use them operationally, and that making the transition from an older squadron has been burdensome. The aerial refueling pod on the C-130Js never worked, he said, forcing mechanics to pull the pods off older planes and to retrofit them onto the new ones.
The planes are undergoing a fourth set of modifications and, as of the end of 2003, had 33 outstanding deficiencies considered capable of causing "death, severe injury or illness, major loss of equipment or systems, or directly restrict[ing] combat or operational readiness," according to the inspector general's report. Congress has approved spending $4 billion for the planes, and the entire program is likely to cost more than $7.5 billion.
Under Pentagon contracting rules, commercial-style acquisition relieves contractors of the obligation to furnish cost and pricing data to military auditors. It also means Pentagon reviews of the production are truncated, and it enables contractors to be paid -- often in full -- for weapons systems before they have been tested to ensure that they meet combat needs.
In eight years, the inspector general's report said, "not one C-130J delivered aircraft was fully compliant with the contract specification. . . . The Air Force did not properly manage the program." It cited the fact that Sambur's office paid Lockheed "almost the full price" for every deficient plane and approved a new multiyear contract in March 2003 despite the absence of a "stable design."
"It's pretty outrageous," said Eric Miller, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan research group that has studied the C-130J program. "Cooperation with a defense contractor is one thing, but turning a blind eye to inferior workmanship is another. . . . It makes you wonder if anybody cares or is accountable."
* * * * * * * *
Attention: Mr. Rumsfeld and Congress:
Are you paying attention? Some key points:
"The Air Force spent $2.6 billion to buy 50 transport planes that do not meet the military's requirements..." - [Huh? Would you buy a car that did not meet your requirements?]
"Air Force used an inappropriate procedure to buy the C-130J transport planes from Lockheed Martin Corp. and then mismanaged its production." - [Who's overseeing this operation?]
"senior Defense Department weapons-acquisition officials failed to provide the program with "effective" oversight - [Oh, I see. Donald Rumsfeld. Well, he's busy with other things, I suppose. But is it any wonder we have that growing deficit?]
"circumvented the required proceduresto sign a contract costing from hundreds of millions to several billions of dollars more than necessary." [My blood pressure is rising!]
"the planes have not passed key readiness tests, and so no C-130J has been used as planned by the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard or the Marine Corps in combat zones or military assaults." [So what have they been using them for since 1999..."approved a new multiyear contract in March 2003 despite the absence of a "stable design." - and why, for heaven's sake did they renew the contract when the last one was so damned unsuccessful???? Who's running this outfit, anyway?]
"C-130J transport planes that the wing has had since 1999 or 2000 are still not rated as mission-ready and are undergoing modifications at their base."
"enables contractors to be paid -- often in full -- for weapons systems before they have been tested to ensure that they meet combat needs." [Excuse me? Would you pay for your new car if it didn't work?]
Follow the money! No doubt some pockets are being lined somewhere.
But, please - who's supposed to be watching? Isn't there someone to be held accountable for this kind of SNAFU. But who can we hold accountable now? Military-Security-Industrial Complex. Bah! Humbug!
And can you believe this doublespeak? : "" Yeah! I'd guess it would be burdensome. Especially to have to retrofit them from older planes! Undesirable? That's putting it mildly. If I were running this ship, heads would be rolling!
And if my congressional representatives don't do something about it and soon, my vote will be going someplace else -- Senators Boxer and Feinstein -- are you listening?
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