Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Releases Report on ECSS Program

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, today released a bipartisan report on the Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) program that squandered over $1 billion in taxpayer funds on ECSS over eight years.  REPORT LINK [PDF]

“The Air Force’s billion dollar ECSS failure is the most egregious example of mismanagement at the Department of Defense in recent memory,” said Senator McCain. “The Air Force did not have a clear idea of what it wanted ECSS to accomplish, and the lack of strong leadership, coupled with the Air Force’s cultural resistance to change, only exacerbated the program’s problems. Moving forward, we must apply the lessons learned from this debacle so that the Department of Defense’s current and future efforts to modernize those large business information technology systems that are vital to its strategy to becoming auditable and improving how it ‘does business’ do not face the same disastrous fate as ECSS.”

“The Air Force has acknowledged the poor decisions and unsound management practices that led to the waste of taxpayer money in the ECSS program,” said Senator Levin. “We must do all we can to make sure that these mistakes are not repeated in future programs.”

The report is attached and a summary below.

ECSS Report Summary

  • The Air Force squandered over $1 billion in taxpayer funds on ECSS from 2004 to 2012 with no capability to show for it.
  • The DOD’s strong cultural resistance to change hinders the effective implementation of business process reengineering (BPR), which is vital to ensuring that enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can be effectively integrated into relevant business units within the Department to achieve desired efficiencies.
  • The Air Force admitted that it did not understand what it needed to do to implement ECSS, which directly contradicts Congressional mandates. To help alleviate this issue, Senator McCain offered (and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed) in the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill an amendment that would require an understanding of the existing legacy systems before the DOD can procure any large new business system.
  • In the eight years ECSS was active, the Air Force transitioned six program managers (PMs) and five program executive officers (PEOs) leaving no one accountable for ECSS’s failure. To help alleviate this issue, an amendment was offered (and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed) in the FY15 NDAA markup to improve program management accountability by aligning their tenure with key decision points throughout the defense acquisition system.

ECSS Report Recommendations

  • Improve ERP systems outcomes by initiating BPR assessments earlier in the acquisition process.
  • Improve oversight to ensure DOD has a sufficient understanding of the existing business processes to be changed.
  • Ensure sound budget decision making by integrating the Investment Review Boards (IRB) at the beginning of the budget process.
  • Reduce duplicative reporting requirements by utilizing a single governance structure for the acquisition of ERP systems.
  • Improve accountability of personnel by aligning the tenure of program executives with key acquisition decision points.
  • Better resource verifications of self-reporting BPR certification from program offices.