Whitehouse Statement on Amendment to Reduce Defense Department's Excess Inventory

As we debate legislation to authorize more than $600 billion for our armed forces, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers who foot the bill to make sure that money is being used as carefully and as wisely as possible. Today I rise in support of an amendment offered by Senator Sanders and cosponsored by myself and Senator Feingold that exposes unnecessary and wasteful spending within the Department of Defense and offers a solution.

From storage warehouses to assembly lines, the Department of Defense is sitting on billions of dollars in parts and supplies that are in excess of the military's requirements - everything from jet engines to springs to fuel tanks.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and other Department of Defense agencies currently possess $30.63 billion of unneeded spare parts, in addition to $346 million of excess spare parts that are on-order - parts that are still being produced or delivered, but that the military already knows it doesn't need. The Air Force has $18.7 billion of excess spare parts on hand; the Navy has $7.7 billion, and the Army has $4.21 billion. On-order excess spare parts are at lower but still unacceptable levels. The Air Force has $1.3 billion in excess parts on-order; the Navy has $130 million, and the Army has $110 million.

It gets worse. Branches of the Armed Forces have millions of dollars of spare parts on-order that they have already decided they will dispose of when they arrive. Mr./Madam President, if a retailer like Target or Best Buy or K-Mart controlled its inventory so poorly that it had $307.48 million worth of items on-order that it knew it would have to dispose of immediately upon arrival, that company would quickly go bankrupt. The Air Force has $235 million of spare parts marked for disposal; the Navy has $18.18 million, and the Army has $54.3 million. That's a nonsensical and unacceptable waste of taxpayers' money.

The Defense Department's inventory management systems are a big part of the problem: they are incompatible, duplicative, and ill-equipped to the task of managing such a massive volume of parts and supplies. Don't just take my word for it. Over the last decade, the General Accountability Office has repeatedly flagged these inventory management systems as "high-risk," vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. If American companies can get this right, there's no reason that America's military can't.

Waste in excess inventory is part of a bigger problem of waste in the Department of Defense. The distinguished Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin, recently cited a GAO report detailing $295 billion in cost overruns and an average 21-month delay on Pentagon weapons systems. The GAO report recommends strong Congressional oversight of defense programs. To that end, the reporting mechanisms of the Sanders-Feingold-Whitehouse amendment increase oversight and prevent waste in the Department of Defense.

Our Amendment calls on the Department of Defense to cut waste and fix the problem. This measure would require the Secretary of Defense to certify to Congress that the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Logistics Agency have reduced by half their spare parts that are on-order and already labeled as excess. Until this certification is completed, the amendment would withhold $100 million from the defense budget for military spare parts.

Our amendment would also require the Department of Defense to come up with a plan to reduce the acquisition of unnecessary spare parts and improve its inventory systems. It would then require quarterly progress reports to Congress, including reports on the levels of excess inventory that are on-hand and on-order.

Our troops deserve the best equipment and the best supplies we can give them to help them do their jobs and keep us safe. Leaving billions of dollars of spare parts to rust away in warehouses just doesn't serve that purpose. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense, important amendment.

I thank the chair and yield the floor.