The Pentagon blew $700 million on a minehunting system for the Navy which continues to receive abysmal performance marks, according to an annual report released by Republican Sen. John McCain.
McCain’s report, called “America’s Most Wasted,” identifies the most egregious examples of waste in the Department of Defense to illustrate the brokenness of the weapons acquisition system.
Over a 16-year period, the Pentagon sunk $706 million of taxpayer dollars into the Remote Minehunting System (RMS). The idea of the system was to detect and destroy sea-based mines, but it has not delivered on its promises. Many now view it as no longer acceptable, given that the RMS no longer qualifies as new, experimental technology.
The RMS’ history of broken promises is reflected in marks given by the Pentagon’s top evaluation officer, who believes that not only has its reliability peaked about a decade ago, but that it actively poses a risk to deployment aboard littoral combat ships.
A test in 2007 revealed that the RMS could not be even be deployed aboard destroyers for test purposes because of its noted unreliability. This unreliability followed the RMS into 2008, at which point the Navy abandoned the idea of an actual experiment and tried to run simulations on paper, instead.
“By 2009, RMS costs had grown 80 percent in a significant violation of acquisition rules, known as a Nunn-McCurdy breach. It had also become quite clear that the Navy did not plan to use RMS on the destroyers anymore, even though it had already paid to outfit them,” the report on waste noted.
A Government Accountability Office report in 2013 found that RMS continued to register false positives when operating and still could not detect the presence of certain mines.
Testing in 2015 has only repeated a pattern of poor performance. First, the ship can’t reliably control the semi-submersible, unmanned vehicle. Second, the unmanned vehicle still has a difficult time detecting mines, and of the mines it manages to detect, it does so at an incredibly slow pace.
“The Navy’s failed Remote Minehunting System is another sad case of wasteful Pentagon spending and the broken defense acquisition process,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “At a time when the defense budget continues to shrink while global threats emerge every day, it is absolutely critical for the Defense Department to stop throwing more taxpayer dollars after bad and start investing in programs that enhance the capability and readiness of our warfighters.”
A memo written in August 2015 by the Pentagon’s top evaluation officer stated that “recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago.”
But the Navy appears dedicated to clinging to the failed system.
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