Nightly News   |  February 08, 2013

$1 billion wasted on Air Force computer system

The Expeditionary Combat Support System, designed to save money by combining hundreds of existing computer systems, has been deemed a failure. Sen. John McCain described it as ‘one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory.’ NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> back now with our series, the fleecing of america. waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars. tonight we're prepared to air a report about a staggering waste of money in washington. just as we're being told of the potential cuts on the way because there's not enough money. tonight, how it is $1 billion was allowed to be spent on a huge military project with virtually nothing to show for it. our report from our senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers .

>> reporter: it was supposed to be the air force 's revolutionary new computer system , to track everything from planes to spare parts to bombs to winter refueling tanker. the expeditionary combat support system. the idea was to save billions of dollars by combining 240 existing computer systems , some from the '70s, into a single system , for buying and managing everything. instead, after seven years and $1 billion, the air force has pulled the plug, stating the program has not yielded any significant military capability. senator john mccain wrote the pentagon, calling it one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory.

>> $1 billion has been basically totally wasted, with nothing to show for it.

>> reporter: just flushed down the drain.

>> flushed down the drain.

>> reporter: you know, a lot of americans remember that infamous $600 toilet set. is this even worse than that?

>> i don't mean to make a joke, but at least they got a toilet seat . out of this, they got nothing. we got nothing.

>> reporter: so what went wrong?

>> you had a company that wasn't up to the task of managing the project. you had a computer system that wasn't actually able to do the job. and you had an air force that was asleep at the switch.

>> reporter: a top executive for the lead contractor, computer science 's corporation or csc, told nbc news that it provided the air force with capabilities and assets to deliver the system of the future, and that taxpayers got their money's worth. an air force official sees it differently.

>> i'm personally appalled at the limited capabilities that program has produced.

>> reporter: senior air force officials say the computer company was unable to deliver what it promised. but admit that the air force too was to blame, and didn't have the level of expertise to manage such a huge complex project. should people be fired over this?

>> sure. sure they should be. will they be? no.

>> reporter: in fact, csc says it has four other contracts with the air force . and a report found that other similar computer programs throughout the pentagon are $8 billion over budget and as much as 13 years behind. lisa myers , nbc news, washington.