House Armed Services leaders aim to cut Pentagon waste, fraud

The leaders of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday will take aim at waste and fraud in the Pentagon purchasing process.

Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member will introduce legislation to overhaul the Pentagon’s acquisition system, targeting in large part the services and goods the Pentagon buys from contractors.

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The legislation to be unveiled Wednesday is based on the recommendations of the Defense Acquisition reform panel, chaired by Reps. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) and Mike Conaway (R-Texas). The two lawmakers are also sponsors of the overhaul legislation.

President Barack Obama last year signed into law a bill overhauling the Pentagon’s weapons acquisition. But in a press release announcing the introduction of the new reform legislation, the House Armed Services Committee acknowledges that last year’s bill only covers 20 percent of the Pentagon’s buying practices, leaving 80 percent unreformed.

The lawmakers project that by overhauling the entire defense acquisition process, the Pentagon could save $135 billion over five years and expedite the process of getting the necessary equipment to the troops in combat.

The so-called IMPROVE Acquisition Act would require the Pentagon to begin “to comprehensively manage the defense acquisition system and acquisition workforce to save taxpayer dollars and ensure that the right materials get to war fighters sooner,” according to the HASC statement. It would also reform the Pentagon’s financial management and seek to expand the industrial base in order to encourage more competition and innovation.

The House is expected to pass the new reform legislation as a stand-alone bill. The Senate has not yet introduced similar legislation, making it likely that the House will include the bill in the 2011 defense authorization act and make it an item of negotiation during House-Senate deliberations over the bill.