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The Military

Pentagon Lost Billions, Pennies At a Time 323

Hugh Pickens writes "MSNBC reports that in 1969, Walter T. Davey, an aeronautical engineer at North American Rockwell, discovered he was being overpaid by roughly 2 cents an hour, or one-third of 1 percent of his pay. Davey submitted the discovery to his superiors and suggested a simple fix. 'It was so simple to correct,' said Davey, a 79-year-old retired Air Force colonel, 'just change a few digits in the coding software.' The Project on Government Oversight, which reviewed Davey's findings last year, estimated the change could save taxpayers $270 million a year. Multiply by 40 years — the length of time since Davey made his discovery — and the figure grows to an astounding $10.8 billion. Legislators ignored Davey's letters, federal auditors deferred to Congress, and lobbyists 'descended on it and tore it into a piece of Swiss cheese' but legislators aren't eager to challenge the powerful defense lobby about a figure that's a relative pittance in the overall defense budget — even if it exceeds $100 million annually. 'A lot of people have taken advantage of the system to reap as much in taxpayer dollars as possible,' says Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight. 'But when you're going up against the contractor lobby — whether you're an individual across the country or a public interest group or a government employee — it's a tough road.'"