Up in Arms

Published — March 15, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Hiding at the back of the budget book

A quick take on conflicting information stemming from the Defense Dept’s 2013 budget


Some vexing news about the Obama administration’s military contracting practices was well-hidden in the Pentagon’s budget briefing materials this year, appearing near the back of the Defense Department Comptroller’s overview presentation of the 2013 budget. There, amid generally positive self-grades in the chapter entitled “Performance Improvement” (page 83) was a disclosure that the number of Pentagon contracts awarded competitively dropped last year.

From the relatively low threshold of 65 percent in 2010, the number dropped to 58.5 percent in 2011, according to the comptroller, Robert F. Hale. That was below 2009’s tally of 62.5 percent, which means that the administration’s ballyhooed effort to boost competitive military contracting has been an utter failure so far.

Hale’s report attributed the shortfall to congressionally-driven funding uncertainties in 2011, the use of a new procurement system that more accurately records which contracts are competitively awarded, and simply “the award of several major weapon system programs.” It did not explain why the latter – the act of contracting by itself — would necessarily produce less competition.

CPI reported last September that in the ten years after 9/11, the amount of Pentagon money flowing into noncompetitive contracts had increased tenfold. Obama promised to fix the problem at the outset of his administration, noting that single-source or no-bid contracts “are wasteful, inefficient, subject to misuse, or otherwise not well designed to serve the needs of the Federal Government or the interests of the American taxpayer.”

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” the palace guard commented, in Hamlet.

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