GAO: DoD lacks 'sufficient' data on $2.1B in power sources

Thursday - 1/6/2011, 5:48pm EST

Michael Sullivan, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management Issues, GAO

Click to hear the interview.

Download mp3

Power -- it's what all Defense Department weapons systems need to run. And in the last five years, DoD spent a staggering $2.1 billion on power sources, particularly, batteries.

As part of a mandate under the Defense Authorization Act of 2010, GAO was charged with determining how well the Pentagon was spending its money on power sources.

GAO investigated how much DoD had invested in power sources and the extent that the agency coordinated and standardized those investments, said Michael Sullivan, the director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management Issues at GAO, in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

Between $8 to 9 million of the $2.1 billion was spent on research and development on "trying to develop better batteries," Sullivan said. Another $1.2 billion was spent on the logistics chain, which include the actual products.

However, the cost of power sources that would go on actual weapons systems was not quantifiable because DoD doesn't "really aggregate data at that level," Sullivan said.

According to the GAO report, "This lack of complete, departmentwide investment data hinders DOD's oversight and future planning in the power sources area, adversely affecting its ability to ensure basic accountability, anticipate future funding, and measure performance."

The GAO study generally found "pretty effective" coordination for research and development. DoD has a network of interagency working groups, conferences and networks for IT resources to share ideas and avoid duplication, Sullivan said.

However, participation was voluntary and there was no mandate for scientists who did participate to share information.

"We thought this could be strengthened if making this mandatory or requiring more participation," Sullivan said.

Another GAO recommendation was to facilitate "standard power sources," he said. For example, batteries could be made with similar sizes and shapes.

"It would be much more helpful for the soldier in the field who's at war not having to fumble around with different types of batteries to find which one might fit the connection that he has for whatever communication device he or she is using," Sullivan said.

Standard connectivity would "reduce a lot of duplication [and] improve the competitive environment for buying," he said.

RELATED LINKS