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So What's the Story Behind the Air Force's Failed $1B Software Program?


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If you have questions regarding the failed billion-dollar software program Computer Sciences Corp. was supposed to put together for the U.S. Air Force, get in line: The Senate Armed Services Committee has plenty it wants answered.

“I have directed the committee’s investigative staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation” to figure out “the causes of the failure and assess steps that can be taken to avoid similar failures,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in an emailed statement.

Bloomberg provides a little background on the final decision to scuttle CSC’s Expeditionary Combat Support System:

… [it] was canceled in November after the service determined the supply-chain management project was “no longer a viable option” to help meet a goal of having its financial books in shape for a federal audit by 2017.

That’s been a major objective of departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. An additional $1.1 billion would have been required to fix the system and put it in operation by 2020 -- eight years after the planned date, according to the Air Force.

Of nine software systems that the Pentagon is installing to improve longstanding financial management deficiencies, the Air Force program was one of at least six that were running as much as 12 years late and $6.9 billion over their original cost estimates, the Government Accountability Office reported in September 2010.

Following the decision decision to dump the failed program, Sens. Levin and John McCain (R-Ariz.) sent a letter to Panetta saying “this case appears to be one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory.”

“I can understand the senators’ frustration,” Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Davis told Bloomberg. “I can understand the fact that a billion-plus of taxpayer’s money went to essentially nothing.”

Senators should be “holding us accountable,” he added.

CSC’s “poor schedule performance was a contributing factor,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek added in email.

The headquarters of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) in Falls Church, Va. (Computer Sciences Corp. via Bloomberg).

What does CSC have to say?

The company “has not received notification” of the Senate investigation but "will provide information on its role” to “any congressional inquiries,” CSC spokeswoman Heather Williams said an email.

Williams also said in another email to Bloomberg that the CSC “worked closely and cooperatively with the Air Force’s senior leadership to close out” the contract.

“We stand behind the work accomplished to date which can provide a solid foundation for the program’s future,” she said.

Whether they stand behind it or not, the Senate Armed Services Committee still wants to know why $1 billion was lost on a program that was supposed to make things more cost-efficient.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image courtesy Getty Images.

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