May 20, 2009

Feingold, Sanders, Whitehouse Oversight Effort Could Result In $50 Million Saved

In Response to Senators’ Request, United States Air Force Commits to Reducing Unnecessary Purchases

Washington, D.C. – In response to a request made by U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the United States Air Force (USAF) is committing to reduce its purchases of unneeded spare parts, which could save taxpayers $50 million next year. The Armed Services have customarily ordered spare parts they do not need, tying up funds that could better be spent to fill budget shortfalls in other critical areas. The senators have urged the Armed Services to set a goal for reducing their orders of excess parts and have cosponsored legislation to do so. The USAF responded by committing to reduce unnecessary spare parts orders by the end of the next fiscal year by $50 million.

“It is hard to explain to America taxpayers why they should be paying for warehouses full of parts the Air Force doesn’t need, but it is even harder to explain that to soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan who have faced persistent problems getting the parts and gear that they do need,” Feingold said. “The goal set by the Air Force is a good start but it is clear that with the amount of money spent on excess parts, further cuts need to be made.

“We simply cannot afford continuing uncontrolled waste at the Pentagon. The Air Force and other branches of the military for years have ordered billions of dollars worth of unnecessary spare parts. The Pentagon must make sure that this chronic problem is fixed,” Sanders said.

“Our troops deserve the best equipment and the best supplies we can give them to help them do their jobs and keep us safe, and leaving millions of dollars of spare parts to rust away in warehouses just doesn’t serve that purpose,” said Whitehouse. “This is a good first step, but clearly there’s more to do.”

The senators’ efforts have been careful to give the Armed Services broad discretion so contracts for parts they need are not cancelled. The Armed Services themselves identify the spare parts that are potential excess. The Government Accountability Office has written over a dozen reports on ways in which the Armed Services could improve their inventory systems.

The service branches acknowledge that there are problems with their inventory management systems. Throughout the 1990’s they sought to reduce their unneeded inventory and managed to decrease it by over $30 billion. In the last several years, progress has stalled and according to the Air Force’s numbers, at the end of last year, it had $2.5 billion of unneeded parts in its inventory. In the last quarter of 2008, the service increased spending on unneeded spare parts by nearly $50 million.


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