Over the last decade, the Defense Department spent nearly $50 billion on weapon systems that will never be used by American forces, according to a new analysis.
Major Pentagon weapon programs "fail more often than not," according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which estimates the Pentagon spent $46 billion on developmental hardware programs that eventually were terminated.
During the post-9/11 era, the Defense Department canceled a number of high-profile programs like the Army's multi-vehicle Future Combat Systems effort, Navy ship initiatives, and Air Force satellite and aircraft programs. The military services and industry were unable to set clear performance and design standards, causing costs to grow to the point the programs became too expensive.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey have said with Pentagon budgets growing substantially each year since 9/11, it became too easy to throw money at programs instead of managing them properly.
The new study comes as senior Pentagon officials, hawkish Republican lawmakers and the GOP's presidential hopefuls are warning that additional defense budget cuts will hinder national security.
The $46 billion figure could become election-year fodder for Democrats who favor another $500 billion in cuts from planned Pentagon spending over the next decade as a way to pare federal deficits.
Can the Pentagon be trusted to manage an annually budget that is projected to grow beyond $600 billion in coming years?
"Any way you look at it the current defense acquisition system is busted. New programs take too long to reach fruition and cost too much," Dan Goure, a former Army official now at the Lexington Institute, wrote in a recent blog post. "Past and even present efforts to reform acquisition are examples of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."