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Report to the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee 
on Armed Services, House of Representatives:

United States General Accounting Office:

GAO:

June 2003:

DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS:

Matching Resources with Requirements Is Key to the Unmanned Combat Air 
Vehicle Program's Success:

UCAV Program's Success:

GAO-03-598:

GAO Highlights:

Highlights of GAO-03-598, a report to the Subcommittee on Tactical Air 
and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of 
Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study:

The Department of Defense (DOD) is developing a new unmanned combat 
air vehicle (UCAV) that can suppress enemy air defenses and conduct 
other air-to-ground attacks, particularly against heavily defended 
targets. Because it may perform these missions at a relatively low 
cost, the UCAV could be used to replace some of DODís aging tactical 
aircraft fleet. A key to UCAVís success will lie in DODís ability to 
match usersí needs, or requirements, with the developerís resources 
(technology and design knowledge, money, and time) when product 
development begins. Our work shows that doing so can prevent rework 
and save both time and money. Therefore, we assessed DODís ability to 
make this match. GAO conducted its work on the basis of the 
Comptroller Generalís authority and addresses the report to the 
Subcommittee because of its interest and jurisdiction in the program.

What GAO Found:

The UCAV programís original performance objectives posed manageable 
challenges to build an affordable, highly survivable, and lethal 
weapon system. The Air Force, however, added requirements for 
electronic attack and increased flying range after DOD accelerated the 
programís product development schedule by 3 years. These changes 
widened the gap between the customerís requirements and the 
developerís resources, specifically time, reducing the probability 
that the program would deliver production aircraft on cost, on 
schedule, and with anticipated performance capabilities.

DOD has recently decided to adopt a new joint service approach to UCAV 
development that provides more time to close the requirementsóresource 
gap before product development starts. It appears DOD may add new 
content because it is proposing to build a new prototype that would be 
a larger air vehicle, capable of flying and carrying out combat 
missions for longer periods of time. To reduce technical risk, DOD 
anticipates delaying the start of product development for several 
years in order to address new requirements.

As a gap between resources and requirements widened in 2002, risks 
projected for the start of product development with UCAVís 15 
technologies, processes and system attributes increased significantly. 
The new joint plan brings the risks back down. This action also allows 
competition back into the UCAV development effort.

DOD will still face challenges in controlling joint, multimission 
requirements and ensuring that both services continue to provide funds 
for the program while also funding other large aircraft investments. 
If these challenges are not met, the gap between requirements and 
resources could resurface. DODís role will continue to be instrumental 
in helping to negotiate requirements, assure resources are in place, 
and make difficult program trade-offs.

What GAO Recommends:

We recommend that DOD develop a joint UCAV acquisition approach that 
balances requirements and resources at the start of product 
development. We also recommend that the Secretary formalize the UCAV 
management role performed by his office, ensure that the services are 
fully involved in the process, and work to develop an efficient 
approach to transition the UCAV to the product development phase so 
the needs of the war fighter can be met more quickly.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-598.

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click 
on the link above. For more information, contact Paul Francis at (202) 
512-2811 or francisp@gao.gov.

[End of section]

Contents:

Letter:

Results in Brief:

Background:

Importance of Matching Resources with Requirements before Product 
Development:

Gap between UCAV Resources and Requirements Was Increased in 2002:

Recent DOD Decision to Restructure Program Can Reduce Risks:

Conclusion:

Recommendations for Executive Action:

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:

Scope and Methodology:

Appendix I: Comments from the Department of Defense:

Tables:

Table 1: Current Risk Level of UCAV Technologies, Processes, and System 
Attributes:

Table 2: Chronology of Changes to the Air Force UCAV Acquisition 
Program Schedule Since 2000:

Table 3: Comparisons of UCAV Variants:

Figures:

Figure 1: Boeing X-45A Demonstrator in Flight:

Figure 2: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45B Prototype:

Figure 3: Timing of the Match between Customer Requirements and 
Resources:

Figure 4: Effect of Accelerated Product Development Start on Program 
Risk:

Figure 5: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45C:

Figure 6: Computer Rendition of the Northrop Grumman X-47B:

Figure 7: Effect of Delayed Product Development Start on Program Risk:

Abbreviations:

DARPA:Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency:

SEAD: suppression of enemy air defenses:

UCAV: Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle:

United States General Accounting Office:

Washington, DC 20548:

June 30, 2003:

The Honorable Curt Weldon 
Chairman 
The Honorable Neil Abercrombie 
Ranking Minority Member 
Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces 
Committee on Armed Services 
House of Representatives:

The Department of Defense (DOD) is in the initial stages of developing 
a new unmanned air vehicle capable of suppressing enemy air defenses 
and carrying out other types of air-to-ground attacks, particularly 
against heavily defended targets. Because of its potential to perform 
these missions at a relatively low cost, this new air vehicle could 
foster efforts to replace DOD's aging tactical aircraft fleet.

The air vehicle is being developed under the Unmanned Combat Air 
Vehicle (UCAV) program. This is an advanced technology demonstration 
program, still in a pre-acquisition phase, with two demonstrator UCAVs 
being flown to assess technologies and capabilities. Launch of a formal 
product development program was expected to occur next fiscal year 
but has since been delayed. We conducted our work on the basis of the 
Comptroller General's authority and have addressed the report to you 
because your expressed interest in the program as a committee of 
jurisdiction.

The start of product development--signified by a Milestone B decision-
-represents the point at which program managers make a commitment to 
DOD and the Congress that the UCAV will perform as required and be 
delivered on time and within estimated costs. Our work has shown 
that programs are more likely to succeed if program managers are 
able to achieve a match between user needs, which eventually become 
requirements, and resources (technology, design and production 
knowledge, money, and time) at the start of product development. 
Conversely, if they do not match requirements with resources, cost 
overruns and schedule delays are likely to occur, reducing DOD's buying 
power in other areas.

Consequently, this report analyzes requirements[Footnote 1] and 
schedule changes made during pre-acquisition and their effects on DOD's 
ability to achieve this match. The report also assesses a recent 
decision to expand the program--both in terms of the military services 
that will be involved with it and in terms of the design and capability 
of the air vehicle--and that decision's effect on DOD's ability to 
match requirements to resources.

Our report focuses on the UCAV program managed by the Air Force and the 
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA has also been 
working with the Navy on a UCAV, but until recently its transition to 
the product development phase was further off in the future. We did not 
assess the Navy's effort except to the extent that it was included in 
the recently established joint program.

Results in Brief:

From 2000 through 2002, decisions to get more capability in less time 
widened the gap between UCAV resources and requirements. The UCAV 
program's original requirements posed significant, but manageable 
challenges to build an air vehicle that is affordable throughout its 
life cycle, highly survivable, and lethal. Subsequently, however, the 
Air Force added requirements for an electronic attack mission and 
increased flying range. Also, DOD accelerated the program's product 
development schedule by 3 years. Those actions widened the gap between 
requirements and resources and increased the challenge for the 
development program.

DOD has recently decided to adopt a new joint Air Force and Navy 
approach to UCAV development that provides more time to close the 
requirements-resource gap before product development starts. Details 
concerning the new acquisition strategy behind this approach have not 
yet been worked out. However, the program could increase requirements 
since DOD is proposing to develop a new prototype that would 
essentially be a larger air vehicle, capable of carrying out combat 
missions for longer periods of time. DOD currently anticipates delaying 
product development by several years in order to address new 
requirements. This delay would help to reduce technical risks, but 
initial fielding of the new air vehicle would be delayed as well. 
Having the Air Force and the Navy work jointly on a UCAV program is 
more efficient than two separate programs. At the same time, the 
participation of two services will increase the challenges 
of sustaining funding and managing requirements.

GAO is making recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on 
maintaining flexibility to make the tradeoffs necessary to bring and 
keep the UCAV's requirements and resources in balance and to ensure his 
office maintains the constructive role it has played in the program so 
far.

Background:

DOD has been successfully using unmanned air vehicles such as the 
Global Hawk and Predator to gather intelligence and perform 
surveillance and reconnaissance missions for military purposes. 
Beginning in the mid-1990s, DOD began to conceive of a different type 
of unmanned air vehicle--the unmanned combat air vehicle or UCAV--which 
would be capable of performing dangerous, lethal combat missions, 
including suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD).[Footnote 2] Unlike 
other unmanned air vehicles, UCAVs would carry weapons as well as 
electronic jammers to confuse enemy radars. DOD also envisioned that 
the air vehicle would operate more autonomously than other unmanned air 
vehicles, requiring little or no human input from ground stations to 
complete their missions or change flight paths. In addition, UCAVs 
would be stealthy and capable of flying in groups or with manned 
aircraft.

The potential of these weapons has garnered high interest from both 
Congress and DOD. In the fiscal year 2001 Defense Authorization Act, 
Congress set a goal that by 2010, one-third of DOD's deep strike force 
be unmanned in order to perform this dangerous mission.[Footnote 3] In 
addition to the potential for saving lives on risky missions, the UCAV 
could provide mission capability at less cost than manned aircraft. 
Program officials initially aimed for the UCAV's acquisition cost to be 
one-third of the joint strike fighter and operations and support costs 
to be at least 75 percent lower. Because of the promise of unmanned air 
vehicles, the Office of Secretary of Defense has established a joint-
service unmanned air vehicles task force to help promote the 
development and fielding of these systems, including making sure that 
there is multiservice cooperation. This task force is responsible for 
outlining the future of DOD's unmanned air vehicles.

In the late 1990s, DARPA and the Air Force began pre-acquisition 
efforts to conduct advanced technology demonstrations to show the 
technical feasibility of using UCAVs to penetrate deeply into enemy 
territory to attack enemy targets. Boeing Corporation was selected in 
1999 to develop and demonstrate two demonstrator UCAVs--designated X-
45A. (See fig. 1.):

Figure 1: Boeing X-45A Demonstrator in Flight:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

The DARPA-Air Force UCAV original plan also called for building and 
demonstrating two prototypes during the pre-acquisition phase, called 
X-45B, that are larger and incorporate low observable technology. 
(See fig. 2.) These air vehicles were expected to be more 
representative of the operational air vehicle that the Air Force 
planned to field. Initially, the Air Combat Command, which establishes 
mission and performance requirements, determined that the X-45B should 
be focused on performing SEAD missions within the air superiority 
mission area. This decision was made to address the limited inventory 
of current assets in the air superiority mission area and to counter 
the challenges and deficiencies associated with conducting SEAD 
missions.

Figure 2: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45B Prototype:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

As of February 2003, 55 of 160 planned demonstrations have been 
completed. Most of the demonstrations designed to validate the basic 
flight characteristics of the air vehicle have been completed. Only a 
small number of the demonstrations needed to validate the ability of a 
single air vehicle to perform a preemptive destruction mission have 
been completed. The more demanding demonstrations--those designed to 
demonstrate technologies and software for highly autonomous, 
multivehicle operations (with both manned aircraft and unmanned air 
vehicles), and the more difficult aspects of the SEAD mission against 
mobile targets--have not begun.

Importance of Matching Resources with Requirements before Product 
Development:

The product development decision that DOD is approaching for its 
UCAV program represents a commitment by the product developer to 
deliver a product at established cost, schedule, and performance 
targets and identifies the amount of resources that will be necessary 
to do so. Our studies of leading companies have shown that when 
requirements and resources were matched before product development was 
started, the more likely the development was able to meet performance, 
cost, and schedule objectives.[Footnote 4] When this took place later, 
programs encountered problems such as increased cost, schedule delays, 
and performance shortfalls.

A key to achieving this match is to ensure that the developer has the 
resources--technology, design and production knowledge, money, and 
time--needed to design, test, manufacture, and deliver the product. It 
is not unusual for a customer to initially want a high-performing 
product that does not cost much or take too long to develop. But such 
an expectation may exceed the developer's technology or engineering 
expertise, or it may be more costly and time-consuming to create than 
the customer is willing to accept. Therefore, a process of negotiations 
and trade-offs is usually necessary to match customer requirements and 
developer resources before firming requirements and committing to 
product development. Our work has shown that successful programs will 
not commit to product development until needed technologies are ready 
to satisfy product requirements. In other words, technology development 
is separated from product development. If technology is not 
sufficiently mature at the beginning of a product development program, 
the program may need to spend more time and money than anticipated to 
bring the technology to the point to which it can meet the intended 
product's performance requirements.[Footnote 5]

Testing is perhaps the main instrument used to gauge technology 
maturity. Testing new technologies before they enter into a product 
development program, as DOD is doing now by demonstrating the two X-45A 
demonstrators, enables organizations to discover and correct problems 
before a considerable investment is made in the program. By contrast, 
problems found late in development may require more time, money, and 
effort to fix because they may require more extensive retrofitting and 
redesign as well as retesting. These problems are further exacerbated 
when the product development schedule requires a number of activities 
to be done concurrently. The need to address one problem can slow down 
other work on the weapon system.

Figure 3 illustrates the timing of the match between a customer's 
requirements and a product developer's resources for successful and 
problematic programs we have reviewed.

Figure 3: Timing of the Match between Customer Requirements and 
Resources:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Gap between UCAV Resources and Requirements Was Increased in 2002:

During 2002, significant requirements were added to the UCAV program 
after the schedule was accelerated by 3 years. This step put the 
program at considerable risk because it increased the gap between 
requirements and resources. The program added two new requirements--one 
for electronic attack capability and one for increased flying range--
while reducing a critical resource, time, to mature key UCAV 
technologies. As a result, the Air Force and DARPA anticipated that 
most of the 15 key technologies, system attributes, or processes 
supporting the aircraft's basic capabilities would move from all low 
risk to mostly medium risk of achieving desired functionality by the 
time a product development decision was reached; one would be at high 
risk.

UCAV Requirements Increased During 2002:

The UCAV program's original requirements were difficult to meet because 
they posed significant but manageable technical challenges to building 
an air vehicle that is, at once, affordable throughout its life cycle, 
highly survivable, and lethal. In the last year, both air vehicle and 
mission equipment requirements were increased. The original 
requirements called for a UCAV that would have:

* a low life-cycle cost, survivable design;

* a mission control station that can fly single or multiple UCAVs at 
one time;

* a secure command, control, and communications network;

* completely autonomous vehicle operation from takeoff to landing;

* off-board and on-board sensors with which to locate targets; and:

* human involvement in targeting, weapons delivery, and target 
damage assessment.

Once these requirements were established, the UCAV contractor 
identified 15 technologies, processes, and system attributes the UCAV 
would have to possess to meet those requirements. These elements became 
a way to gauge the level of knowledge (in terms of risk) that the 
contractors had. Right now, technologies that support some of these 
capabilities, such as autonomous operation, are not yet mature. We used 
their risk assessments and criteria for the 15 technologies, processes, 
and system attributes to determine current system integration risk as 
well as technology risk. We believe technology readiness levels would 
have provided a more precise gauge of technology maturity, but program 
officials did not provide them.[Footnote 6] Currently, 10 technologies, 
processes, and system attributes are considered to be medium risk by 
the Air Force and DARPA. Medium risk means that there is a 30 to 
70 percent probability of achieving the desired functionality for the 
initial operational UCAV. Moreover, 5 are currently considered to be 
high risk, that is, there is less than 30 percent probability of 
achieving their functionality. Table 1 provides the current risk level 
of the 15 UCAV technologies, processes, and system attributes for 
original UCAV objectives.

Table 1: Current Risk Level of UCAV Technologies, Processes, and System 
Attributes:

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Affordable air vehicle 
unit/ recurring flyaway cost; Characteristics currently at high risk: * 
Survivable air vehicle integration.

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Weapons suspension and 
release; Characteristics currently at high risk: * Advanced targeting 
and engagement process.

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Dynamic distributed 
mission/vehicle control; Characteristics currently at high risk: * Low 
observable maintainability.

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Advanced cognitive aids 
integration, mission planning; Characteristics currently at high risk: 
* Adaptive, autonomous operations.

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Force integration, 
interoperability, and information assurance; Characteristics currently 
at high risk: * Affordable large-scale software.

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Secure, robust 
communication capability; Characteristics currently at high risk: 
[Empty].

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Coordinated multivehicle 
flight/motion; Characteristics currently at high risk: [Empty].

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Affordable operating and 
support cost, and integrated vehicle health management; Characteristics 
currently at high risk: [Empty].

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Mobility, rapid deployment, 
and footprint; Characteristics currently at high risk: [Empty].

Characteristics currently at medium risk: * Sortie rate, turn time, and 
ground Operations; Characteristics currently at high risk: [Empty].

Source: DOD.

[End of table]

Originally, the UCAV program was tasked with providing an air vehicle 
that would perform both preemptive and reactive SEAD missions 
against fixed and mobile targets that are extremely demanding from 
both a mission and capability perspective. The reactive mission is more 
demanding than the preemptive mission because the UCAV will have less 
time to find and engage mobile targets. When DOD decided to accelerate 
delivery of the initial UCAVs, the program was relieved of meeting the 
requirement for reactive SEAD, making for a better balance between 
requirements and available resources. However, requirements were 
subsequently added that increased the challenge of matching 
requirements with resources. These requirements include an electronic 
attack mission and increased combat range and endurance.

* Electronic attack: DOD's electronic attack mission is currently 
performed by the Navy's aging EA-6B Prowler aircraft. Electronic attack 
confuses enemy radars with electronic jammers. In 2001, the Navy 
conducted an analysis of alternatives for replacing the Prowler. Air 
Combat Command planners determined that the UCAV could fill portions of 
this role quickly and added the requirement to the program. As 
currently structured, the program does not plan to demonstrate 
electronic attack technologies on UCAV demonstrator or prototype 
vehicles before product development begins. According to program 
officials, the biggest additional challenge associated with this change 
is the integration of existing electronic attack technologies into a 
low observable air vehicle. Program officials are also concerned that 
downsizing and repackaging current electronic warfare technology to fit 
into a smaller space, with sufficient cooling and power, and 
incorporating antennas and other apertures into the low observable 
signature of the UCAV may pose additional challenges. Program officials 
also stated that the addition of electronic attack adds uncertainty to 
overall program costs. It may reduce the number of initial UCAVs 
planned for initial production because additional work will be required 
to integrate this capability into air vehicles, given the current 
schedule and funding.

* Longer range and endurance: According to program officials, Air Force 
leadership would like to have a larger UCAV with longer range and 
greater endurance than that currently being designed in the X-45B to 
perform strategic lethal strike and nonlethal intelligence, 
surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. However, increasing UCAV's 
range forced the program to abandon a key design concept expected to 
lower operating and support costs significantly over that of a manned 
aircraft--one of the program's original critical requirements. The 
initial UCAV concept was a design that allowed the wings to be detached 
from the air vehicle and stored in a crate for up to 10 years, a 
concept which was expected to contribute to a greater than 75 percent 
reduction in operation and support costs. When needed, the UCAV could 
be shipped to the theater of operations, assembled, and readied for 
use. Adding range and endurance required redesigning the air vehicle 
with fixed or permanently attached wings, in order that the inside of 
the wings could be used as fuel tanks. This would allow the UCAV to 
carry more fuel and give it the ability to fly farther. Since the wings 
would no longer be detachable, the long-term storage approach had to be 
abandoned.

Schedule Compression Created Greater Technical and Cost Risks:

The schedule for the UCAV program has changed several times during the 
pre-acquisition phase. In 2000, the Air Force anticipated that product 
development would start in 2007 and initial deliveries would begin in 
2011. After several schedule changes, the Air Force set product 
development in 2004 and initial delivery of aircraft in 2007. (See 
table 2.) The net effect of the changes was a 3-year reduction in time 
to mature technologies before product development. This reduction 
created the potential for costly and time-consuming rework in product 
development since the Air Force would still be in the process of 
maturing technologies as it undertook other product development 
activities. Moreover, the concurrency that comes with the schedule 
changes would have left little room for error.

Table 2: Chronology of Changes to the Air Force UCAV Acquisition 
Program Schedule Since 2000:

Program: strategy as of: 2000; End of technology and military utility 
demonstrations (FY): 2007; Start product development (FY): 2007; 
Initial deliveries (FY): 2011; UCAV capabilities: Preemptive SEAD; 
reactive SEAD.

Program: strategy as of: 2001; End of technology and military utility 
demonstrations (FY): 2006; Start product development (FY): 2005; 
Initial deliveries (FY): 2010; UCAV capabilities: Preemptive SEAD; 
reactive SEAD.

Explanation of change: To meet Air Force 
expectations for delivering capabilities to the war fighter earlier 
than 2011, the product launch date was moved up by 2 years to 2005 and 
initial delivery up 1 year to 2010.

Program: strategy as of: 2002; End of technology and military utility 
demonstrations (FY): 2006; Start product development (FY): 2003; 
Initial deliveries (FY): 2007; UCAV capabilities: Preemptive SEAD.

Explanation of change: The schedule was 
changed by direction of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to 
further accelerate delivery of initial operational UCAVs to the 
customer. The program attempted to balance this decision by deferring 
the most challenging requirements for conducting reactive SEAD against 
mobile targets to a future version of UCAV.

Program: strategy as of: Late 2002; End of technology and military 
utility demonstrations (FY): 2006; Start product development (FY): 
2004; Initial deliveries (FY): 2007; UCAV capabilities: Preemptive 
SEAD; Electronic attack; Extended range.

Explanation of change: The timeline was 
changed to address added requirements for electronic attack and 
extended range. While 1 year was added to the start of product 
development, the date for initial deliveries did not change.

Source: GAO presentation of program data.

[End of table]

Under the original schedule, the UCAV program would essentially have 
3 more years prior to the beginning of product development to test and 
mature technologies. As a result, all 15 of the technologies, 
processes, and system attributes would be at low risk by the launch of 
product development indicating a match between requirements and 
resources. By contrast, under the late 2002 schedule, the program would 
not have enough time to mature technologies to a low risk prior to the 
launch of product development in 2004. In fact, most technologies, 
processes, and system attributes would still be either medium or high 
risk by the time product development was launched indicating that 
requirements exceeded resources.

The overlap of technology development and product development, 
introduced by the acceleration of product development, also raised 
risks for the UCAV program. The late 2002 schedule allowed less time 
for discovering and correcting problems that may have arisen during 
technology demonstrations prior to product development launch. 
Importantly, all of the air vehicle military utility demonstrations 
would have been completed after the beginning of product development. 
Under the original schedule most of these demonstrations would have 
been completed prior to the start of product development.

Increasing the overlap of technology development and product 
development added risk to the program. Problems found during 
those demonstrations might have to be fixed during product development-
-problems made more likely given the lower maturity level of the key 
technologies. Figure 4 shows that the concurrency between technology 
development and product development increased by approximately 18 
months under the late 2002 schedule--from a 6-month approximate overlap 
to a 24-month approximate overlap. Also, this acceleration increased 
the program risk for the start of product development from all low to 
mostly medium risk for the 15 technologies, processes, and system 
attributes being tracked.

Figure 4: Effect of Accelerated Product Development Start on Program 
Risk:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

As figure 4 indicates, the UCAV technology and product development 
phases had been shortened from a plan with little concurrency between 
technology and product development to a plan with significant 
concurrency between the two. The push to deliver the product sooner 
compressed the time in which technologies will be matured and 
integrated into the UCAV weapon system. The resulting approximate 24-
month overlap between technology and product development caused by 
accelerating the beginning of UCAV's product development program had 
the potential to create "late cycle churn," or the scramble to fix 
significant problems discovered late. We have found that when problems 
are uncovered late in product development, more time and money is 
required to rework what is already finished.[Footnote 7]

Recent DOD Decision to Restructure Program Can Reduce Risks:

The Office of the Secretary of Defense recently restructured the UCAV 
program to a joint program structure to meet the needs of the Navy as 
well as the Air Force. The Office of the Secretary of Defense cancelled 
plans to build the X-45B prototypes and now anticipates that the joint 
UCAV program will focus on a family of vehicles derived from the larger 
Boeing X-45C and Northrop Grumman X-47B prototypes designs. The details 
of the program are still being decided, but it appears likely that 
while content will increase, the start of product development will be 
delayed. This approach represents a substantial improvement over the 
late 2002 plan in that it lowers risks significantly. However, keeping 
requirements and resources in balance and funding intact until product 
development starts will be a challenge.

The proposed prototypes will be larger than the X-45A or X-45B and thus 
more capable of supporting requirements for greater combat range and 
endurance. Also, both the proposed X-45C and X-47B prototypes will have 
a larger wing area, allowing them to carry increased payload and 
internal fuel. Just as the X-45B would have been more capable than the 
X-45A, the X-45C is projected to be more capable than the X-45B as 
shown in Table 3 below. We did not obtain specific data on the X-47B 
prototype.

Table 3: Comparisons of UCAV Variants:

Weight; X-45A: 12,000 lb.; X-45B: 21,000 lb. (approx.); X-45C: 35,000 
lb.

Length; X-45A: 26.3 ft.; X-45B: 32 ft.; X-45C: 36 ft.

Wingspan; X-45A: 33.8 ft.; X-45B: 47 ft.; X-45C: 48 ft.

Payload; X-45A: 1,500 lb.; X-45B: 2,000 lb.; X-45C: 4,500 lb.

Ceiling; X-45A: 35,000 ft.; X-45B: 40,000 ft.; X-45C: 40,000 ft.

Speed; X-45A: 0.75 Mach; X-45B: 0.85 Mach; X-45C: 0.85 Mach.

Endurance/combat radius; X-45A: 450 NM w/30 minutes loiter; X-45B: 850 
NM w/30 minute loiter (w/added internal fuel); X-45C: 1100-1300 NM w/30 
minute loiter.

Source: DOD.

[End of table]

Further, by adopting a design that increases internal space on the air 
vehicle, DOD could more readily incorporate electronic attack equipment 
and other sensors and avionics. In addition, the plan would reintroduce 
competition into the UCAV program by assessing two different designs. 
This competition would increase DOD's ability to pursue the best 
technical solution. On the other hand, acquisition cost for the larger 
air vehicles are expected to increase as will operating and support 
costs due to the abandonment of the storage-in-the-box concept. Also, 
meeting the Navy's need for carrier-based operations could place 
additional demands on the air vehicle design. Figures 5 and 6 show 
illustrations of Boeing and Northrop Grumman proposed joint UCAV 
designs.

Figure 5: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45C:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Figure 6: Computer Rendition of the Northrop Grumman X-47B:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

In addition, more time will be added under the joint program to conduct 
demonstrations by delaying the start of product development by several 
years. Some of this added time--up to a year--will be needed to develop 
and deliver the new prototypes. As shown in figure 7, delaying the 
beginning of product development could reduce technical risks since DOD 
would have more time to test prototypes.

Figure 7: Effect of Delayed Product Development Start on Program Risk:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

However, these delays may postpone initial operational capability 
beyond what DOD and the Congress originally anticipated, which 
was at the end of the decade. But recognizing this upfront to put the 
program on a sounder footing may be preferable to proposing a 
higher risk approach--like the 2002 plan--that is more susceptible 
to unplanned delays.

Drawing on the experience of the UCAV to date as well as other 
programs, DOD will face challenges in keeping the requirements for the 
new joint design balanced with available resources. One challenge 
relates to requirements. As mentioned above, more demands could be made 
of the air vehicle to meet the needs of both the Air Force and the 
Navy. Prior to the new joint approach, the Navy's top mission for the 
UCAV has been conducting intelligence, surveillance, and 
reconnaissance. When considering the Air Force's missions of reactive 
and preemptive SEAD and electronic attack, it is foreseeable that the 
program will face pressures to meet multiple missions. One approach to 
meeting this challenge is to delay the start of product development 
until resources--such as technology maturity--are available to meet all 
requirements. This would delay the program significantly and could 
raise funding issues. Alternatively, adhering to an evolutionary 
acquisition approach and developing the different mission capabilities 
in sequence could meet the challenge, so that the initial capability 
can be fielded sooner.

Another challenge relates to funding. Past and present programs have 
been susceptible to such funding issues. Moreover, other programs 
that dwarf the UCAV program--such as the F-22 and the Joint Strike 
Fighter--will be competing for investment funds at the same time.

We have found in earlier work[Footnote 8] that although the Office of 
the Secretary of Defense provides some funding for advanced technology 
development efforts, the military services and defense agencies are 
ultimately responsible for financing the acquisition and support of 
equipment or items that result from the efforts. At times, however, the 
military services have not wanted to fund the transition process. This 
action either slowed down the acquisition process or resulted in no 
additional procurements. Specifically, military services have not 
wanted to fund technologies focusing on meeting joint requirements 
because those technologies do not directly affect their individual 
missions, and there are specific projects that they would prefer to 
fund. At the same time, Office of the Secretary of Defense officials 
told us that they lack a mechanism for ensuring that decisions on 
whether to acquire items with proven military utility are made at the 
joint level, and not merely by the gaining organizations, and that 
these acquisitions receive the proper priority.

The UCAV has already experienced some funding challenges. Recently, 
during preparations for the fiscal year 2004 budget cycle, the Air 
Force budget proposal eliminated all UCAV funding beyond that needed to 
finish work on two prototypes already on contract. The Air Force based 
this action on its belief that the X-45B UCAV was too small for the 
role the Air Force believed was most needed.

To keep the UCAV program on track, the Office of the Secretary of 
Defense stepped in to resolve requirements and funding challenges and 
maintained a strong oversight over it. While the Office of the 
Secretary of Defense increased the challenge by accelerating the 
delivery date for the first UCAVs, it allowed the Air Force to defer 
the reactive SEAD requirement and fended off more radical changes to 
the UCAV's missions. In addition, the Office of the Secretary of 
Defense has taken the lead in brokering the agreement on the joint 
program proposal, adding development time to the proposal and working 
out a joint effort that could result in a single design for the Air 
Force and Navy. Sustaining the role played by the Office of the 
Secretary of Defense is likely to be important to meeting future 
challenges the UCAV may face.

Conclusion:

UCAVs offer a potential for DOD to carry out dangerous missions without 
putting lives at stake and to find cost-effective ways of replacing 
DOD's aging tactical aircraft fleet. However, up until recently, pre-
acquisition decisions had collectively increased requirements and 
reduced resources, putting the program in a riskier position to 
succeed. The decision to create a joint program could make for a better 
program if the gap between resources and requirements can be closed. 
The joint program faces a challenge in managing the demands of 
multimission requirements with the desire to field an initial 
capability in a reasonable time. Accepting increased requirements and 
accelerating fielding at the same time, as was previously done, will 
hinder the ability of the joint UCAV program to succeed. The program 
also faces the challenge of sustaining funding support from both 
services at a time when it is competing against other large aircraft 
investments. Regardless of which direction the new program takes, the 
role played by the Office of the Secretary of Defense will continue to 
be instrumental in helping to negotiate requirements, to assure the 
right resources are provided, and to make further difficult tradeoff 
decisions throughout the program.

Recommendations for Executive Action:

We recommend the Secretary of Defense develop an acquisition approach 
for the joint UCAV program that enables requirements and resources to 
be balanced at the start of product development. This approach should 
provide mechanisms for brokering the demands of multiple missions, for 
ensuring that the product developer maintains a voice in assessing the 
resource implications of requirements, and for preserving the integrity 
of evolutionary acquisition. Reinstating the use of technology 
readiness levels may be very valuable in facilitating necessary 
tradeoffs.

We also recommend that the Secretary formalize the management role 
performed by his office and the attendant authority to perform that 
role; ensure that the services are fully involved in the process; and 
work to develop an efficient approach to transitioning the UCAV from 
DOD's technology development environment to the services' acquisition 
environment so the needs of the war fighter can be met more quickly.

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:

DOD provided us with written comments on a draft of this report. 
The comments appear in appendix I. DOD provided separate 
technical comments, which we have incorporated as appropriate.

DOD concurred with our recommendation that the Secretary of Defense 
develop an acquisition approach for the joint UCAV program that 
enables requirements and resources to be balanced at the start of 
product development. It has directed the formation of a Joint Systems 
Management Office to define near-term requirements and to conduct 
robust operational assessments.

DOD partially concurred with our recommendation that the Secretary 
formalize a management role performed by his office and the attendant 
authority to perform that role; ensure that the services are fully 
involved in the process; and work to develop an efficient services' 
acquisition environment so the needs of the war fighter can be met more 
quickly. DOD noted that the Secretary is organizing the management 
function as he deems suitable. DOD did state that the department's UAV 
Planning Task Force would continue to provide oversight over all DOD 
UCAV program activities. We believe this is important because it was 
this organization that was instrumental in refocusing the DOD UCAV 
effort into a joint program that we believe will significantly improve 
the probability of successfully fielding UCAVs.

Scope and Methodology:

To achieve our objectives we examined Air Force UCAV program 
solicitations and agreements, the demonstration master plan, trade 
studies, technology demonstration plans and results, status of critical 
technologies, plans to further enhance maturity of critical 
technologies, and plans to move UCAV to the Air Force for product 
development. We interviewed DARPA and Air Force program managers and 
technical support officials at DARPA program offices in Arlington, 
Virginia, and the Air Force's Research Lab and Aeronautical Systems 
Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, to document 
current development efforts and the maturity status of critical 
technologies and other attributes. To determine options that may be 
available to UCAV program managers in making changes to requirements or 
resources, we examined the program's risk assessments of its 15 
technologies, processes, and system attributes to identify risk 
associated with beginning product development at different points in 
time. We interviewed Air Force Air Combat Command officials at Langley 
Air Force Base, Virginia, concerning UCAV requirements, and air staff 
officials in Arlington, Virginia, concerning program objectives 
and resources. We also interviewed a number of officials from the 
Office of Secretary of Defense having responsibility for UCAV oversight 
and funding.

We conducted our work from February 2002 through May 2003 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards.

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Defense, the 
Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, the Director of the Office of 
Management and Budget and other congressional defense committees. We 
will also provide copies to others on request. In addition, the report 
will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://
www.gao.gov.

Please contact me at (202) 512-2811 if you or your staff has any 
questions concerning this report. Key contributors to this report were 
Mike Sullivan, Jerry Clark, Matt Lea, Kris Keener, Travis Masters, 
Cristina Chaplain, Lily Chin, Bob Swierczek, and Maria-Alaina Rambus.

Paul Francis 
Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management:

Signed by Paul Francis:

[End of section]

Appendix I: Comments from the Department of Defense:

ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS:

OFFICE OF THE UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:

3000 DEFENSE PENTAGON WASHINGTON, DC 20301-3000:

June 23, 2003:

Mr. Paul Francis:

Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management U.S. General Accounting 
Office:

Washington, D.C. 20548:

Dear Mr. Francis:

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) response to the General 
Accounting Office (GAO) draft report, GAO-03-598, "DEFENSE ACQUISITION: 
Matching Product Requirements with Resources Key to the Unmanned Combat 
Air Vehicle Program's Success" dated May 19, 2003 (GAO Code 120125/
820003).

The DoD reviewed the draft report and partially concurs with the 
report's recommendations. Technical changes for clarification and 
accuracy have been provided separately.

The Department appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft 
report. For further questions concerning this report, please contact Lt 
Col Bill Bridges, UAV Planning Task Force, 703-695-8817.

Sincerely,

Glenn F. Lamartin 
Director:

Signed by Glenn F. Lamartin: 

Defense Systems:

Enclosure:

GAO DRAFT REPORT - DATED MAY 19, 2003 GAO CODE 120125/GAO-03-598:

"DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Matching Product Requirements with Resources Key 
to the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle Program's Success":

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE COMMENTS TO THE RECOMMENDATIONS:

RECOMMENDATION 1: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
develop an acquisition approach for the joint UCAV program that enables 
requirements and resources to be balanced at the start of product 
development. This approach should provide mechanisms for brokering the 
demands of multiple missions, for ensuring that the product developer 
maintains a voice in assessing the resource implications of 
requirements, and for preserving the integrity of evolutionary 
acquisition. Reinstating the use of technology readiness levels may be 
very valuable in facilitating necessary tradeoffs. (p. 15/GAO Draft 
Report):

DOD RESPONSE: The Department concurs with this recommendation and we 
are developing an acquisition approach to balance resources with 
evolving requirements throughout the program. The Department has 
directed the Air Force, Navy, and DARPA to form a Joint Systems 
Management Office (JSMO). The JSMO will help define near-term Service 
requirements for a highly survivable unmanned combat system by planning 
and executing a series of robust operational assessments. Once these 
initial requirements are identified the mechanism for matching 
resources will occur through the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting 
System.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The GAO recommended that the Secretary formalize the 
management role performed by his office and the attendant authority to 
perform that role; ensure that the Services are fully involved in the 
process; and work to develop an efficient approach to transitioning the 
UCAV from DoD's technology development environment to the Services' 
acquisition environment so the needs of the war fighter can be met more 
quickly. (p. 15/GAO Draft Report):

DOD RESPONSE:

The Department partially concurs with this recommendation to formalize 
a management role. The Secretary is organizing the management function 
as he deems suitable. The mechanism for transitioning UCAV specific 
capability from technology development to a Milestone B decision (the 
start of "product development") is through establishment of the JSMO. 
The JSMO goal is to assess UCAV capability to meet warfighter needs 
through a series of operational assessments, and plan for a normal 
transition to "acquisition" if successful. Although less structured in 
the early stages, this JSMO will be adaptive and foster multi-
organizational partnering. The Department's UAV Planning Task Force is 
actively engaged in the development of the JSMO and will continue to 
provide oversight over all DoD UCAV program activities.

[End of section]


FOOTNOTES

[1] Formal requirements for the UCAV program have not yet been 
established. However, program objectives based on customer expectations 
have been established for specific missions the UCAV is expected to 
perform. We refer to these as requirements in this report.

[2] Suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions are those 
directed at destroying or interrupting the ability of ground-based 
missiles, either fixed or mobile, to locate, target, and/or destroy 
U.S. aircraft.

[3] Pub. L. No. 106-398, Sec. 220 (2000).

[4] U.S. General Accounting Office, BEST PRACTICES: Better Matching of 
Needs and Resources Will Lead to Better Weapon System Outcomes, GA0-01-
288 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 8, 2001).

[5] U.S. General Accounting Office, BEST PRACTICES: Better Management 
of Technology Development Can Improve Weapon System Outcomes, GAO/
NSIAD-99-162 (Washington, D.C.: July 30, 1999).

[6] A good indicator of technology risk is technology readiness level, 
which is used by NASA and some Air Force programs to define the level 
of risk from a technology given its level of demonstration.

[7] U.S. General Accounting Office, Best Practices: A More Constructive 
Test Approach Is Key to Better Weapon Systems Outcomes, GAO/NSIAD-00-
199 (Washington, D.C.: July 31, 2000).

[8] U.S. General Accounting Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Factors 
Affecting Outcomes of Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations, GAO-
03-52 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 2, 2002

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