The Pentagon spent $58 billion developing new weapons systems only to eventually scrap them, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Defense’s chief weapons buyer.
The Pentagon canceled a total of 22 weapons programs, 17 percent of the projects that the DoD had set cost, schedule and performance markers between 1997 and 2015, the Monday report says.
Nearly half of the sunk costs went to two programs: The Future Combat System (FCS) built high-tech computers, tanks and drones in one fell swoop, and received $20.7 billion before it was canceled; the stealthy Comanche reconnaissance and attack helicopter project, which received $9.8 billion.
“Creating new—and sometimes well beyond the current state of the art—weapons systems that will give our warfighters a decisive operational advantage far into the future will never be a low-risk endeavor,” defense acquisition chief Frank Kendall said in the introductory letter of his report.
Overall, percentage cost growth in defense programs — which measures how much over-budget a Pentagon project gets — has declined over the past five years to a 31-year low, which, Kendall says, indicates that the DoD “has moved—and is moving—in the right direction with regard to the cost, schedule, and quality of the products we deliver.”
“It is also worth noting that sometimes the results and insights from the sunk costs on canceled programs are used on other related programs,” Mark Wright, Kendall’s spokesman, told Bloomberg News.
The $58 billion — $53 billion after adjusting for inflation — “isn’t much spread over a 20-year period,” Loren Thompson, defense consultant at the Lexington Institute, told Bloomberg. “Program cancellations arise from many causes, including changing threats and the appearance of new technologies. Also, programs sometimes get killed because rigorous testing reveals unexpected flaws.”
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