$296 Billion, 22 Months

By Jim Wallis 03-31-2009

$296 billion is a lot of money. Twenty-two months is a long time. But that's not the cost of the most recent bailout and 22 months isn't a prediction of how long our economic crisis will last. $296 billion is the total cost overrun for the Department of Defense's 96 largest weapon programs and 22 months is the average time these projects are behind schedule, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). $1.6 trillion, the estimated U.S. debt next year, also happens to be the total cost of these 96 weapon programs the report studied in 2008. The $296 billion cost overrun was actually an improvement over the 2007 excess that, adjusted into 2009 dollars, would be $301 billion. The report says that after this small improvement, "the overall performance of weapon system programs is still poor," that the cost overruns are "staggering," and that "the problems are pervasive." One of the primary causes the report identifies for these problems is a lesson that the economic crisis is teaching many people. The report notes as one of four problems that "an imbalance between wants and needs contributes to budget and program instability." As the budget process gears up and Congress looks at what will be good debt and bad debt - and determines the difference between wants and needs- let's hope they look at this report and listen to members like Barney Frank who are calling for responsibility and cuts in unnecessary military spending.

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