Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Defense Acquisition Overhaul Bill Next Up in Senate

May 5, 2009 – 1:33 p.m.

The Senate will take up legislation to overhaul the Pentagon weapons acquisition process this week after it completes work on housing legislation, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., confirmed Tuesday.

While no deal has yet been made to limit amendments on the floor, the leadership is hoping that relatively few amendments will allow the bill to pass the Senate this week, the spokesman said. Lawmakers were expected to finish the housing bill late Tuesday.

Sens. Claire McCaskill , D-Mo., and Tom Coburn , R-Okla., said they would offer amendments. McCaskill said she expected her amendments to be supported by leadership and therefore adopted into the bill.

Regarding whether his amendments have support among leadership, Coburn said, “I haven’t asked.”

The House Armed Services panel is set to mark up its version of the bill May 7. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version April 2.

Those looking to change the bill are concerned that enforcement mechanisms in the bill are too lax, jeopardizing its chances of properly fixing how the Defense Department manages its multitrillion-dollar program portfolio.

Defense acquisitions experts and watchdog groups have criticized the bill, focusing on several changes the Senate committee made in its markup, many at the request of the Pentagon.

The goal is to conference and clear the legislation before the end of this work period.

“I’m eager to get this legislation on my desk before Memorial Day so that we can start getting on track to spending all our money wisely,” President Obama said in an April 30 statement after meeting at the White House with leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

According to the Government Accountability Office, defense contracting has run $296 billion over budget for the military’s 96 largest weapons programs since those programs began.

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