War Dominates Pentagon Expenses

A bit past the half year mark, war costs once again rank among the leading Pentagon expenses, according to an Aerospace Daily analysis of data provided by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR).

Trucks, combat assault vehicles, guided missiles, night-vision goggles and battle needs ranked at the top of Pentagon costs, according to the analysis of more than 1 million contracts and contract modifications released by NICAR Aug. 17.

The two top expenses so far this year are wheeled trucks/truck tractors and logistics or support services, each accounting for about $4.6 billion in contracts or modifications (Click the link to see related charts).

The Defense Department will likely spend more than $100 billion for joint logistics costs by 2011, the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson predicts.

Army and Marine trucks deployed to Iraq are operating at about 10 times the rate they would experience in peacetime, so they are wearing out quickly, Thompson said. Some analysts predict vehicle purchases could rise between 400 percent and 500 percent by the early part of the coming decade.

In April, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales (Ret.) testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Defense Department spends too much money and time worrying about technology and high-performance fighter jets and needs to focus more on foot soldiers.

Averaging about $15 billion per year, fixed-wing costs have been the number one Pentagon expense for contracts and modifications throughout the past six years, according to Aerospace Daily analysis of NICAR data (DAILY, April 10).

Some Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysts say such data includes too many variables to be the best gauge of Pentagon spending practices.

Certainly, the data currently available for 2007 spending thus far does not necessarily indicate what the Pentagon's spending by year's end will be.

For example, last year Aerospace Daily's analysis showed a similar pattern early in the year. Fuel, logistics and wheeled trucks or tractors procurement all were ranked among the top 10 of 2006 contract transactions, according to an analysis at nearly the same point in 2006.

But by year's end, fixed wing aircraft costs came in at the top spot, with about $17 billion in contracts or modifications, the analysis showed. Overall in 2006, the Defense Department spent or obligated about $30 billion for fixed wing, aircraft engine and defense aircraft operations - all of which were among the top 20 Pentagon expenses.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office analyzed tactical fighter costs from 1976 through the present and projected out to 2011, normalizing the data to express costs in fiscal year 2007 dollars.

"The total investment for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) and procurement during this time period approaches $1 trillion in constant dollars," the agency said in its spring report, "Tactical Aircraft: DOD Needs a Joint and Integrated Investment Strategy."