Saturday, July 2, 2011

U.S. Army Defends Boeing on Overcharges

U.S. Army officials prefer to focus on the decreased repair turnaround times at a maintenance depot where Pentagon investigators found Boeing overcharged the Army $13 million on spare helicopter parts, not on the $10 roller assemblies that cost the Army more than $1,600.
A U.S. Apache helicopter fires rockets during a joint gunnery exercise. Pentagon investigators found Boeing overcharged the U.S. Army $13 million on spare helicopter parts. (Jung Yeon-Je / AFP via Getty Images)
The Army's Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command bought the 18 parts highlighted in a recent Defense Department Inspector General's report, which made up the $13 million in overcharges. Soldiers and civilians used the parts at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas.
The DoD Inspector General's report highlighted extreme overcharges in comparing Boeing prices to those that would have been charged by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). In one case, Boeing charged the Army $71 for a straight pin that would have cost the service 4 cents from DLA. Boeing also charged $381.78 for a bolt retainer; DLA charges $6.77.
In all, the Army paid $23 million for the 18 sets of parts that should have cost the service $10 million, a 131 percent price hike, according to the full IG report, which was first released by the Project on Government Oversight.
However, the 18 parts highlighted in the report make up a small sliver of the 8,000 parts included in Boeing's contract with the Army, according to Dan O'Boyle, an Army spokesman. The price increase paid by the Army for the entirety of the contract is 17 percent, which was acceptable to service officials in order to cut down on back orders and keep up with increased maintenance needs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"It was recognized that using a material integrator would drive an estimated average material price increase of about 25 percent, based on lower parts quantities and immediate parts availability, but would be offset by the increase in parts availability and increased readiness," O'Boyle said in a statement.
Army officials credited Boeing with reducing back-ordered parts from 292 in 2004 down to 22, which led to an overall increase of readiness rates by 10 percent. Upon further inspection, O'Boyle said, the Army found that about 2,000 parts included in the contract are priced less than Army and DLA inventory prices.
The Corpus Christi Army Depot is a maintenance center used mainly for Army helicopters. Boeing builds the Army's AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and the CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor utility helicopter.
A previous Army audit of the initial contract could have caught the overcharges of the 18 parts, but the Army audit only covered "80 percent of the total dollars associated with the bill of material for this contract because of the magnitude of the parts involved," O'Boyle said.
A similar audit by the Defense Department Inspector General is taking place concerning purchases made for the same depot from Sikorsky Aircraft, according to the report.
The Defense Contract Audit Agency also is doing a full audit of actual costs expended on the contract, whereas the Defense Department IG "only sampled a portion of the contractor's expenditures," O'Boyle said in a statement.
"Given the wartime environment for Army aviation, more rotary aircraft today and flying six times above the peacetime flying hours, the critical support to these platforms could not have been achieved without this agreement," O'Boyle said in a statement.
After the Defense Department IG released its report, Boeing issued the Army a voluntary refund of $1.6 million for five types of parts, an Army official said.
"The handful of errors cited by the IG's initial report represents an extremely small part of our outstanding support to our U.S. Army customer," said Bob Algarotti, a Boeing spokesman. "Boeing voluntarily reimbursed the government for the items cited and already improved our process, which will prevent reoccurrence of these errors."
In the same Defense Department IG inspection that cited the 18 overcharged parts, inspectors found the Army had not used $339.7 million of inventory before buying the same parts from Boeing. The Army disputes that figure, saying $48.1 million is "actually excess at this point," O'Boyle said.
In response, the Army will use the Enterprise Resource Planning system to ensure that inventory is more visible. Army Materiel Command has "implemented a policy requiring the use of all on-hand inventory before the purchase of any additional material on performance-based contracts," O'Boyle said.

Iran Denies Smuggling Weapons to Iraq, Afghanistan

TEHRAN - Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi dismissed as "ridiculous lies" U.S. claims that Tehran smuggled weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan, the semi-official Fars news agency reported July 2.
"The ridiculous and repeated lies of the Americans are aimed at justifying their own errors," Gen. Vahidi was quoted as saying.
The Wall Street Journal on July 1 quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps supplied allies in Iraq and Afghanistan with rocket-assisted exploding projectiles.
These weapons have already killed American troops, said the officials quoted by the newspaper.
Iran has also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance, the report said.

Kuwait Ends Bahrain Naval Mission: State Media

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwaiti naval forces on July 2 ended a mission to secure Bahrain's maritime border they began in March amid a crackdown on Shiite protesters, the official KUNA news agency reported.
"The Kuwaiti naval task force in the Kingdom of Bahrain ended today (July 1) its mission to contribute to the protection of the maritime border of Bahrain and securing it in cooperation with the Bahraini navy, which began in March," KUNA said.
The announcement came the same day that Bahrain opened a national dialogue said to be aimed at relaunching political reforms.
Saudi Arabia deployed about a thousand troops to Bahrain in March while the United Arab Emirates sent some 500 police - deployments that freed up Bahraini security forces to crush a month-long Shiite-led protest movement calling for reforms in the Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority kingdom.
A Saudi official said on June 28 that the Peninsula Shield force of Gulf troops sent to Bahrain were to be "redeployed" but will not withdraw completely.
Kuwaiti Sunni Islamist MPs had announced before the naval deployment that they would move to question the prime minister in parliament for not sending troops to Bahrain.

U.S. Wars Leave 225,000 Dead, Cost $4.4 Trillion: Study

WASHINGTON - U.S. wars launched since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have left 225,000 dead and cost up to $4.4 trillion, according to a new study by university researchers.
The study published by Brown University this week focused on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and counter-terrorism campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, which came in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
The authors argued that governments almost always go to war underestimating the potential duration and costs of a conflict while overestimating "the political objectives that can be accomplished by the use of brute force."
The study said "an extremely conservative estimate" of the casualty toll was about 225,000 people killed and 365,000 wounded in the wars so far.
The number of soldiers killed comes to 31,741, including about 6,000 Americans, 1,200 allied troops, 9,900 Iraqis, 8,800 Afghans, 3,500 Pakistanis as well as 2,300 U.S. private security contractors, it said.
The civilian toll was much higher, with an estimated 172,000 dead, including about 125,000 Iraqis, 35,000 Pakistanis and 12,000 Afghans, it said.
The study acknowledged that estimating the number of dead was difficult, particularly the toll for insurgents, putting the number at between 20,000 to 51,000 insurgents killed.
The report found that 168 reporters and 266 humanitarian workers were among the dead since the United States launched its "war on terror" after 9/11.
The wars also have triggered a massive flow of refugees and displaced persons, with more than 7.8 million displaced, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, it said.
The study estimated the financial cost of the wars at a minimum of $3.7 trillion and up to $4.4 trillion, which represents about a quarter of the country's current debt.
The researchers arrived at a much larger figure than the Pentagon's previous estimates, as they included spending by the Department of Homeland Security to counter terrorist threats, government projections for spending on wounded veterans through 2051 and war-related funds from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The U.S. government has previously cited the price tag for the wars at about one trillion dollars.
"Our estimate is larger because we include more than the direct Pentagon appropriation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the larger global war on terror," said the study.
"Wars always cost more than what the Pentagon spends for the duration of the combat operation."

Panetta Takes Reins as Pentagon Chief

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta vowed July 1 to keep the U.S. military the "best" in the world despite mounting budget pressures, after being sworn in as the new Pentagon chief.
"As your leader, I will ensure that our nation continues to have the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest military in the world - a force prepared to confront the challenges that face us," Panetta wrote in his first message to troops after taking the oath of office at the Defense Department. "Even as the United States addresses fiscal challenges at home, there will be no hollow force on my watch."
Panetta succeeds Robert Gates, who won praise from Republicans and Democrats during his 4½ years on the job.
Panetta assumes office amid growing calls to rein in government spending, with an increasing number of lawmakers saying the massive defense budget can no longer be excluded from cutbacks.
Acknowledging "tough budget choices" on the horizon, Panetta said: "We must preserve the excellence and superiority of our military while looking for ways to identify savings."
The proposed defense budget for 2012 is about $671 billion, including $118 billion for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With a gradual transfer to Afghan forces due to begin this year, Panetta said the U.S. "must remain committed to working closely with our Afghan and international partners to ensure that it never again becomes a safe haven for al-Qaida and its militant allies."
On Iraq, he said the U.S. will need "to reinforce that responsibility, for the future security of Iraq must belong to the Iraqis themselves."
Panetta, however, made no mention of NATO-led air operations in Libya launched in March.
Some lawmakers have accused President Barack Obama of overstepping his legal authority in the Libya conflict, which has proved unpopular with Americans. But the Obama administration has argued the U.S. is playing a limited, supporting role in the operation.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Panetta also pledged to "protect" U.S. troops, according to military spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan.
Panetta was quoted as saying there was "no higher responsibility for a secretary of defense than to protect those who are protecting America."
Panetta, 73, is the oldest incoming U.S. secretary of defense and the first Democrat to hold the job since William Perry in 1997. He stepped down as head of the CIA to take the Pentagon job

$2.7B Turk Sub Deal With Germany Takes Effect

ANKARA - A 2 billion-euro ($2.7 billion) deal between Turkey's arms procurement agency and Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems for the joint manufacture of six submarines formally took effect July 1, the German group announced.
"The 2 billion-euro order for six U214 submarine material packages placed with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems by the Republic of Turkey has entered into force with receipt of the advance payment," the group said in a statement July 1.
"As a longstanding partner and supplier to the Turkish Navy, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems can now begin executing the order," the statement said. "The order will contribute to securing employment at [ThyssenKrupp's] HDW in Kiel, as well as at many subcontractors in Germany and Turkey, for the next 10 years."
A major loan deal on the last day of 2010 between German banks and the Turkish Treasury rescued the contract between the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the Turkish government's procurement agency, and German shipyard Howaldswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW), Turkish procurement officials said earlier. Since then, the two sides had discussed the loan's conditions, and that process ended successfully in late June.
Turkey and HDW, an affiliate of the ThyssenKrupp conglomerate, originally signed the submarine contract in July 2009, but no price was disclosed at the time. Turkey originally selected HDW over French and Spanish rivals in the summer of 2008, when officials said the German offer was worth 2.5 billion euros.
Renegotiations over price and a clear road map for Turkish local participation led to a final agreement on a price reduction of more than 500 million euros, bringing down the program's final cost to about 2 billion euros.
Under the Turkish modern submarine program, the non-nuclear vessels will be built at the Navy's Golcuk Shipyard on the Marmara Sea coast near Istanbul. The submarine program will become Turkey's largest defense modernization project after a planned $13 billion deal to buy 100 next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force.
Ankara is hoping the U214 submarines will enter service shortly after 2015, two years later than the original schedule when the program was launched a few years ago.
With a decision to proceed, Turkey scrapped a modernization plan for its older Ay-class submarines, also built by HDW.
Turkey also is building its own corvette-type ships and hopes to produce its own frigates by the end of this decade. Several Turkish shipyards are producing patrol boats, coast guard boats and other amphibious platforms.

Russia to Deliver Sub to India By Year End: Report

MOSCOW - Russia will deliver a long-awaited nuclear submarine to India by the end of the year, the country's navy chief was quoted as saying by the state RIA Novosti news agency on July 1.
The date for the delivery of the Nerpa submarine in which 20 people died in an accident during sea trials in 2008 has been pushed back several times.
"We will definitely deliver the submarine to the customer by the end of the year," Russia's navy commander Vladimir Vysotsky was quoted as saying in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg.
He added that an Indian crew was fully trained and ready to receive the vessel.
The Nerpa was undergoing trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008 when its fire-fighting system went off by accident, filling the submarine with a toxic gas that killed 20 sailors and shipyard workers.
Russia supplies 70 percent of India's military hardware but New Delhi has been unhappy about delays to arms orders from Moscow and looked to other suppliers including Israel and the United States in recent years.

India To Arm U.S.-built P-8I With U.S. Torpedo

NEW DELHI - India is to buy lightweight torpedoes to arm the U.S.-made P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft that the Indian Navy has ordered.
The Pentagon has officially notified the U.S. Congress of the potential sale of Mk-54 lightweight torpedoes to the Indian Navy, an Indian Defence Ministry official said. The deal will be a government-to-government sale.
The torpedo is an anti-submarine weapon that can be fired from the P-8I aircraft with a high kill probability.
The Navy is buying 12 P-8I aircraft from the U.S. under contracts signed in 2008 and 2010.
The Mk-54, the most advanced lightweight torpedo in the U.S. Navy's inventory, will provide the Indian service with effective long-range anti-submarine warfare capabilities. The final content and price for the deal will be determined during discussions between the governments, an official of the U.S. Embassy here said.
"This sale reflects the mutual benefits of the U.S.-India security partnership," a U.S. Embassy statement said. "For India, the combined sale of the P-8I aircraft with the Mk-54 torpedoes will add to India's anti-submarine capability as it expands its ability to protect India and the critical sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. The offer highlights the U.S. commitment to share cutting-edge technology with India, and to ensure that both nations enjoy the benefits of a secure and stable South Asia."