Ellen Lord, the Defense Department's acquisition chief, said Wednesday that a shakeup of department personnel overseeing weapons purchasing programs is already in the works after facing tough questioning from Sen. John McCain about government waste.
A review of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and military services is looking at whether or not the department has “the right people in the right slots,” Lord told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I will take action if there are issues, no question about it,” Lord, whose official title is undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters after the hearing. “There are constraints when you come into a government job, you cannot move anybody for 120 days and if you check on my 120 days it was just very recently.
“I think you should expect to see some movements,” she added.
McCain had called Lord and other top Pentagon officials before the committee for testimony on reforming acquisition programs, which he often condemns for wasting billions of dollars in recent years. His frequent targets are the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier program and the Army’s ill-fated Future Combat Systems, which was abandoned years ago.
“There is no penalty for failure,” McCain told the Pentagon panel at the hearing. “For example, the $6 billion Future Combat Systems that never worked, can you tell me an individual or individuals that paid a penalty for that failure?”
Lord offered to come to McCain’s office to brief him in private on what she said were actions taken over the past few months but the chairman was unsatisfied with that answer.
“We'll be glad to hear what you've done and what you plan on doing, but there's no reason why you shouldn't tell the American people,” McCain retorted. “That's why we have hearings in the Armed Services Committee. Okay?”
McCain warned Lord to be prepared to talk about what she has done to rein in wasteful weapons programs the next time she testifies to the committee.
“Sir, excuse me. I want to be on record,” Lord said. “We hold people responsible and we will talk about that.”
McCain again threw the question out to the rest of the Pentagon panel.
“Who is it that's been fired?” he asked, waiting during a pause. “Any answer? No.”
Army Secretary Mark Esper, who was confirmed Nov. 15 and was also on the committee panel with Lord, offered a response.
“Senator, I'm not aware of anyone being fired for [Future Combat Systems], to your point. We completely agree,” Esper said.