WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, disclosing a defense contractor charged the Navy $435 for a hammer, Tuesday announced a 10-point plan to revamp Pentagon purchasing procedures for spare parts and to prevent overcharges.
Recent Pentagon audits of parts-buying practices 'demonstrate conclusively that we must make major changes in the way we order and purchase spare parts,' Weinberger said in a memorandum to the top military and civilian officials at the Defense Department.
The action follows the released of audits earlier this month showing the Navy bought $80,284 worth of spare parts for F-18 fighter-bomber simulators that could have been purchased for $3,638 through its own supply system and the Air Force spent $3.2 million on parts worth only $883,000.
The Navy is seeking a reimbursement from the Sperry Corp. for the F-18 parts. It has fired one officer at the Orlando, Fla., naval center responsible for buying those parts. The commanding officer and a civilian at the center have been reprimanded.
The Pentagon spent $1.2 billion on spare parts in fiscal year 1982.
In the latest case, Weinberger issued a statement disclosing that Gould Simulation Systems, Inc., of Melville, N.Y., charged the Navy $436 for a sledge hammer, $435 for a claw hammer and $437 for a 12-foot measuring tape. The tools were purchased for work being done at the Naval Air Station, Whiting Field, Fla.
Navy Secretary John Lehman 'is seeking immediate recoupment of the overcharges,' Weinberger said. 'A review is under way to determine if additional disciplinary actions should be taken against personnel within the Navy responsible for screening the spare parts.'
Lehman, in a letter to Chairman William Ylvisaker of Gould, Inc., of Rolling Meadows, Ill., said the company charged the Navy '$435 each for claw hammers that are available in any hardware story for less than $15.'
He said it should 'not be perceived that industry seeks to gain windfall profits at the Pentagon's expense' and, therefore, the company should repay the Navy 'the enormous difference between a fair return, including reasonable profits, and what in fact you were paid.'
'In this case,' he said, 'I should think you would want to return to the Navy something more than $420 per hammer.'
In his memorandum, Weinberger acknowledged the Pentagon failed to comply with directives issued in March 1981 to increase competitive bidding and hold down prices, saying they 'have not been enforced vigorously enough.
'To ensure that we are not plagued with pricing abuses in the future we have developed and put in place a 10-point program.'
One of those points calls for 'stern disciplinary action - including reprimand, demotion and dismissal -- of those employes who are negligent in implementing our procedures.'
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Thayer has been directed 'to alert defense contractors to the seriousness of the problem and of our firm intention to keep prices under control.'
Other points in the plan include:
-Incentives to employees 'who rigorously pursue cost savings' similar to the $1,100 recently awarded to an Air Force sergeant
-'Refuse to pay unjustified price increases'
-Reforming basic contracting procedures to encourage competition, prevent overpricing and giving the Pentagon the legal right to recover excessive payments
-'Obtain refunds in instanceswhere we have been overcharged'