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Monday, November 26, 2012

How the Air Force blew $1 billion on a dud system

The Air Force’s controller, Jamie Morin, admitted publicly in April that the service spent seven years and $1 billion on a logistics management system that had “negligible” capability.

But that’s not what drove Air Force leaders to finally cancel the Expeditionary Combat Support System project this month.

And it wasn’t because technical glitches forced the Air Force to repeatedly scale back expectations for the new system — from replacing 240 legacy systems, as originally planned, to just 12.

In the end, officials canceled ECSS because continuing it would have cost another $1 billion to gain a quarter of the capability it was originally supposed to have, with fielding delayed until 2020.

Johnson attributed the project’s extensive problems to an array of factors.

The project became plagued with technical glitches and delays.

The system had once been touted as revolutionizing the management of parts and equipment. The ECSS’ success was a critical component in the Defense Department’s strategy for meeting a congressional deadline for having audit-worthy books by 2017.

The ECSS was among almost a dozen “enterprise resource planning” systems undertaken by the Defense Department and the military services to modernize management of logistics, finances and other business operations. The systems are supposed to replace numerous smaller-scale legacy systems that are decades old in some cases.

But while the ECSS is the only one that has been canceled so far, a half-dozen other enterprise systems are years behind schedule and a combined $8 billion over their original budgets, the Defense Department’s inspector general said in a July report. The delays not only undercut anticipated cost savings, but also risk putting the department behind in reaching the 2017 goal to clean up its books, the IG said.

Lawmakers have already asked the Air Force for a briefing on the ECSS cancellation, according to an aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is in line to become the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee next year.

-Sean Reilly, FederalTimes.com

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