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Ashton Carter Says Yes To SecDef Nomination, Will There Be Real Procurement Reform?

After two passes it appears the White House finally has its nominee for Secretary of Defense. Ashton Carter announced on Twitter that he received a phone call from President Barack Obama nominating him to be the next Secretary of Defense to replace Chuck Hagel who announced his resignation last week. Both Senator Jack Reed and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy publicly took themselves out of consideration leaving Carter who accepted the nomination after receiving a call from President Obama personally.

Carter previously served as Undersecretary of Defense in the Obama Administration and began his career in the Clinton Administration. He has a background in theoretical physics and was a Rhodes Scholar.

The road to confirmation will not be an easy one given the hawks that sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee who are unhappy with Obama’s current foreign policy. But one issue that may come up is work Secretary Hagel left largely unfinished – procurement reform. The Pentagon is notorious for cost overruns and problematic accounting to the point of being unauditable and there was supposed to be a program to at least get some control on how the Pentagon spends money on weapons projects.

In all, between 2001 and 2011 the Defense Department spent $46 billion on at least a dozen programs — including a new version of the president’s helicopter — that never became operational, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But for evidence of a procurement system that’s broken, critics say look no further than the major programs that are moving forward. They’ve grown half a trillion dollars over their initial price tags and have schedule delays of more than two years, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO Report on Pentagon spending provides yet more evidence that despite all the righteous indignation fueled soundbites about bringing transparency to defense budgeting it is business as usual at the Department of Defense. Projects that roll on for years sucking up billions of dollars ultimately stall and fade.

It’s clear Secretary Hagel failed to reform defense spending even under an austerity budget – the same wasteful system continued just with less cash to churn. What is Ash Carter’s plan to reform DoD’s broken procurement system?  Or is the latest round of posturing about cleaning the system up over?

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.