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Committee Hears Former GM Exec For Pentagon Purchasing Post

November 20, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan’s nominee to bring the Pentagon’s procurement programs under control says he’s confident he can do the job even though his predecessor said it was impossible.

Robert B. Costello, a former General Motors Corp. executive, told the Senate Armed Services Committee at confirmation hearings Thursday that he will win a consensus for controlling costs.

Committee members, however, said consensus may not be enough to keep the sprawling military bureaucracy from purchasing errors such as those that produced $400 hammers and $5,000 coffee pots.

Congress created the ″undersecretary for acquisition″ post last year to bring some central control over the Defense Department’s procurement programs. In October, Richard Godwin resigned, saying the task was impossible ″under the conditions of status quo prevailing in the Defense Department.″

Costello, 61, was General Motors’ executive director for purchasing from 1982 until 1986, when he was appointed assistant secretary of defense for production and logistics.

″I’m dedicated to getting more for less,″ he said.

He told the committee that as undersecretary for acquisition, he would try to steer the Defense Department away from programs ″uniquely stamped by one component.″

″The undesecretary for acquisition has the authority to demand, direct and control,″ he said. ″I think experience shows that if you all you do is demand, direct and control, you don’t have a very long tenure.″

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a longtime critic of Pentagon waste, stressed the need for Costello to direct purchasing rather than simply make recommendations.

″There are some tough decisions to be made by you that are going to make some people unhappy, and that’s what we want you to do,″ Levin said.

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