The Obama administration’s 2013 defense spending plan, detailed as part of its overall new federal budget, includes $178.8 billion to buy new weapons, ranging from jet fighters and artillery to naval cruisers and satellite systems. But the real costs of these programs to the federal budget are unlikely to be disclosed in its budget documents or dozens of detailed weapons program reports due on Capitol Hill in March, according to a recent federal audit report.
The true costs of some of the biggest pieces of the U.S. arsenal are mostly hidden, the audit concluded, because the Defense Department’s public documents typically list only how much has been spent or will be spent to acquire its fighters, ships, and vehicles.
The long-term costs of owning such armaments, including all the operations, maintenance, and repair expenses, are often misstated or ignored in the Pentagon’s reports to Congress, or compiled only in an aggregate number that defeats careful analysis of rising costs in individual programs or prudent planning for future military spending, according to the auditors.
About 70 percent of the cost of major armaments have often been obscured in this way, according to a figure given to the auditors by officials at the Pentagon. The estimate appears in a little-noticed General Accountability Office report to the House Armed Services committee dated Feb. 2.
The significance of this oversight is not hard grasp: Anyone who owns a computer printer knows that repeatedly buying the ink eventually draws far more from your wallet than the machine itself, making it useful to have a plausible forecast of those expenses in advance.
But the military services and the officers who buy new weapons have ...