Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following speech during House consideration of H.R. 2101, the WASTE TKO Act:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2101, the Weapons Acquisition System Reform Through Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Oversight Act of 2009 and of H.Res. 432 under which we will consider the bill today.
By voting for H.Res. 432, we will be adopting the bill reported out of the House Armed Services Committee 59-0, and initiating a conference with the Senate and their related bill, S.454, which passed the Senate on a vote of 93-0. This legislation is in keeping with the best bi-partisan traditions of the Congress, and the bi-partisan leadership of both House and Senate have committed to passing this legislation as quickly as we can.
The need for this legislation is urgent and indisputable. GAO tells us that DOD currently estimates it will exceed its original cost estimates on 96 major weapons systems by $296 billion. That is more than two years of pay and health care for all of our troops. Much of this cost growth is already baked into the pie because of decisions made that would be difficult or impossible to reverse. At the same time, however, a lot of this is money that we have not yet actually spent, meaning we will feel the effects of this waste for years. We cannot wait to take corrective measures.
On April 27, Ranking Member McHugh and I, along with our partners, Rob Andrews and Mike Conaway, the leaders of our Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform, introduced the WASTE TKO Act. After introducing the bill, the committee held two hearings on the bill and held a mark-up. On the basis of the testimony we received, and on the basis of this committee’s long experience on acquisition reform issues, I can say with confidence that this legislation will substantially improve the oversight of major weapons system acquisition.
Let me briefly summarize the bill’s provisions. It requires the Secretary of Defense to assign responsibility to independent officials within his office for oversight of cost estimation, systems engineering, and performance assessment. It also assigns additional responsibility to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for assessing technological maturity and to the unified combatant commanders for helping to set requirements. It promotes competition in our acquisition strategies and promotes the consideration of trade-offs between cost, schedule, and performance. It limits organizational conflicts of interest, and tightens the Nunn McCurdy process. Perhaps most importantly, it requires increased focus on programs in the early stages of acquisition when most costs are determined, and it focuses oversight on programs which have demonstrated poor performance. Lastly, the bill authorizes the Secretary of Defense to award excellence in acquisition.
Let me clarify an important issue about this bill that has arisen. Mr. McHugh and I have worked to make clear that this bill is tailored to match the scope of S. 454. We did this to speed its enactment into law. As a result, like S. 454, it deals almost exclusively with major weapons systems acquisition, which is only 20 percent of the total that DOD spends on acquisition on an annual basis. There are also serious problems with the other 80 percent of the acquisition system, and as a result, we have established the Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform, led by Rob Andrews and Mike Conaway. They did excellent work on this bill, and we will get a lot more good work out of them before their day is done. We are fully committed to continuing to work on these issues in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, and in subsequent legislation.
I ask all members of the House to support H.Res. 432, and the underlying bill, and vote to move us forward to a conference with the Senate on this vital matter.”