A top U.S. lawmaker slammed the Air Force's handling of its weather satellite program Thursday, saying it would have been easier for the government to simply set the money on fire.
"We could have saved the Air Force and the Congress a lot of aggravation if we had 18 years ago put a half a billion dollars in a parking lot in a pile and just burned it," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, held to discuss military acquisition reform.
"In all, the Air Force spent well over a half-billion dollars on this satellite — $518 million to be specific," he said.
The Ccongressman criticized the Air Force’s handling of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, or DMSP, a string of satellites that have been providing weather data for the military since 1962.
In 1997, the service built the next satellite to be launched, dubbed DMSP-F20. But it was never — and still has not been — sent into space.
"They promptly put it in a storage facility, for so long that the Air Force ultimately had to pay industry to upgrade it because it was antiquated," Rogers said.
He grilled Richard Lombardi, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, arguing that the service had spent millions of dollars just to keep the satellite in storage.
"We spent $500 million that could have been used to support national security. Instead, it's going in the trash. I presume it's going to be made into razor blades," Rogers said of the satellite.
Lombardi admitted that the satellite was mishandled, but said it was a rare mistake from the service.
"The DMSP-20, the example you pointed out, is an unfortunate one, in which — you're absolutely correct — is that we have at a point we are not going to be able to execute that satellite," he told the committee.
The Air Force, however, "has a tremendous understanding of the entire space business and we are dedicated to continue to being able to provide that capability for our nation," Lombardi said.
But Rogers said the armed services committee had little confidence to believe the Air Force could handle space acquisition programs, and said instances like the satellite make it more difficult to secure funding for the Pentagon in a time of fiscal austerity.
"This committee fights with the full Congress constantly trying to get adequate defense spending," he said. "This kind of example kills us. This is just an inexcusable waste."