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Senators want answers on failed $1B system

Dec. 6, 2012 - 02:09PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 6, 2012 - 02:09PM  |  
Sens. Carl Levin (left) and John McCain are asking the Pentagon to explain its handling of a botched $1 billion Air Force logistics management program. The two are seen above in a February photo.
Sens. Carl Levin (left) and John McCain are asking the Pentagon to explain its handling of a botched $1 billion Air Force logistics management program. The two are seen above in a February photo. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
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In a harshly worded letter, the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee are asking the Pentagon to explain its handling of a botched $1 billion Air Force logistics management program.

"From what we know to date, this case appears to be one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory," Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., wrote in a Wednesday http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/senators-levin-and-mccain-seek-answers-on-1-billion-expeditionary-combat-support-system">letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

"We believe that the public and the taxpayers deserve a clear explanation for how the Air Force came to spend more than a billion dollars without receiving any significant military capability, who will be held accountable, and what steps the department is taking to ensure that this will not happen again."

Air Force leaders last month scuttled the Expeditionary Combat Support System after acknowledging that they had gotten little in return for the $1.03 billion invested since 2005. The service, which had already restructured the program three times, opted to pull the plug after determining that it would have to spend another $1 billion to get one-quarter of the original capability by 2020.

The ECSS had been a key element in the Air Force's plan to have auditable financial books by 2017. Instead, it will now have to rely on aging legacy systems to make that congressionally mandated goal.

Among other questions, the two senators asked Panetta to explain:

• The main causes for the ECSS's failure and why it took so long for senior management to recognize the problems and cancel the program.

• How the Defense Department plans to change its management of other enterprise resource planning systems to avoid similar problems in the future

• What steps Pentagon officials will take to ensure that the performance of the prime contractor, Computer Sciences Corp., is considered in future contract awards.

• How the Air Force plans to meet the ECSS's original objectives, as well as the 2017 audit-readiness deadline.

In an interview last month, senior Air Force officials blamed the program's demise on several factors, including the lack of a firm master schedule, Oracle software that wasn't fully developed, and CSC's inability to tailor that software to what the system was supposed to do. CSC, which was fired from the project in March, was paid about $527 million for its work, according to the Air Force.

Levin is the committee's chairman; McCain, its top Republican.

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