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Pentagon says waste, fraud are rife - and hard to stem

Stung by disclosures of $7,622 coffeepots and overpriced aircraft armrests, the Pentagon said Wednesday its own investigators have uncovered 17,000 cases of waste and fraud since 1981 but acknowledged even those may represent only the tip of the iceberg.

Joseph H. Sherick, the Defense Department's inspector general, said that he could not quantify how much money is lost to fraud and waste in a defense establishment that buys weapons and equipment at the rate of $600 million a day and that he tries to win convictions of fraudulent contractors, but prosecutors are often reluctant to undertake a complicated trial that could take weeks to win a single conviction.

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