Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will Frank LoBiondo block defense contracting reform again?

Today, President Barack Obama announced major new reforms of defense procurement, which will include both Presidential orders and (we hope) bipartisan legislation. I've ranted about the Deepwater Scandal, where my Congressman Frank LoBiondo helped stop reformers. The result was that billions of dollars were wasted by Lockheed-Martin and Nothrop Grumman on Coast Guard equipment that didn't work. The sad fact is, this is a very common outcome of such contracts: Off the top of my head, I'd name the Lockheed-Martin Presidential helicopter and Lockheed and General Dynamics littoral combat ship projects. These kinds of management disasters soon add up, according to Obama:

Recently that public trust has not always been kept. Over the last eight years, government spending on contracts has doubled to over half a trillion dollars. Far too often, the spending is plagued by massive cost overruns, outright fraud, and the absence of oversight and accountability. In some cases, contracts are awarded without competition. In others, contractors actually oversee other contractors. We are spending money on things that we don't need, and we're paying more than we need to pay. And that's completely unacceptable.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office, GAO, looked into 95 major defense projects and found cost overruns that totaled $295 billion. Let me repeat: That's $295 billion in wasteful spending. And this wasteful spending has many sources. It comes from investments and unproven technologies. It comes from a lack of oversight. It comes from influence peddling and indefensible no-bid contracts that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

"Contractors actually oversee other contractors" is a major part of what wrong in Deepwater. Obama's new presidential memorandum should help, but Congress also needs to act:

Second, we must make investments to keep our country safe while cutting back on the waste and inefficiency that isn't. And that's why I'm so pleased to support the goals of the bipartisan effort on procurement reform that has been led by our own Carl Levin and John McCain in the Senate. They have done extraordinary work trying to push this issue to the forefront. We want to see if we can partner with Senator McCain and Senator Levin to get this done as soon as possible. And thanks to Secretary Gates, some of the reforms that they've talked about are already beginning to take shape. And I've asked him to work with Senators Levin and McCain on developing this legislation as it moves forward, and Bill Lynn, who is heading up procurement issues at our White House as Deputy Secretary of Defense is going to be leading the charge on this, as well.

Frank LoBiondo decided to break his term limits pledge because he thought his experience was valuable. I hope that Frank LoBiondo has learned from his personal mistakes and will support these reforms in Congress wholeheartedly. Otherwise, we will soon see more quotes like this as more money is wasted:

To fight back, the Coast Guard and contractors relied on Congressional allies, led by Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, Republican of New Jersey, and Representative Gene Taylor, Democrat of Mississippi.

...[LoBiondo] is also one of the top Congressional recipients of Lockheed contributions.

While we wait to see what LoBiondo does, at least we know John Adler will be better than Chris Myers on this issue.

Cross-posted at Blue Jersey