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entitled 'Unmanned Aircraft Systems: DOD Needs to More Effectively 
Promote Interoperability and Improve Performance Assessments' which was 
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Report to the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee 
on Armed Services, House of Representatives: 

December 2005: 

Unmanned Aircraft Systems: 

DOD Needs to More Effectively Promote Interoperability and Improve 
Performance Assessments: 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-49] 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-06-49, a report to the Subcommittee on Tactical Air 
and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) consist of an unmanned aircraft; 
sensor, communications, or weapons, carried on board the aircraft, 
collectively referred to as payloads; and ground controls. UAS have 
been used successfully in recent operations, and are in increasingly 
high demand by U.S. forces. To meet the demand, the Department of 
Defense (DOD) is increasing its investment in and reliance on UAS, and 
often deploying them while still in development. GAO has previously 
found that DODís approach to developing and fielding UAS risked 
interoperability problems which could undermine joint operations. GAO 
was asked to review (1) UAS performance in recent joint operations and 
(2) the soundness of DODís approach to evaluating joint UAS operational 
performance. 

What GAO Found: 

DOD has achieved certain operational successes using UAS, including 
identifying time-critical targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, and striking 
enemy positions to defeat opposing forces. Some missions effectively 
supported joint operations, and in other cases, the missions were 
service-specific. DOD has encountered challenges which have hampered 
joint operations at times. First, some UAS cannot easily transmit and 
receive data with other communication systems because they are not 
interoperable. Although DOD guidance requires interoperability, 
detailed standards for interoperability have not been developed; DOD 
has relied on existing, more general standards; and the services 
developed differing systems. For now, U.S. forces have developed 
technical patches permitting transmission but slowing data flow, 
potentially hampering time-critical targeting. Second, some sensor 
payloads cannot be interchangeably used on different UAS because DOD 
has not adopted a payload commonality standard. Some UAS missions may 
have to be delayed if compatible unmanned aircraft and payloads are not 
available. Based on its experience with UAS in Persian Gulf operations, 
U.S. Central Command believes communications interoperability and 
payload commonality problems occur because the servicesí UAS 
development programs have been service-specific and insufficiently 
attentive to joint needs. Lastly, the electromagnetic spectrum needed 
to control the flight of certain unmanned aircraft and to transmit data 
is constrained and no standard requiring the capability to change 
frequencies had been adopted because the problem was not foreseen. 
Thus, some systems cannot change to avoid congestion and consequently 
some missions have been delayed, potentially undermining time-critical 
targeting. In addition to the joint operational challenges, inclement 
weather can also hamper UAS operations. Unmanned aircraft are more 
likely to be grounded in inclement weather than manned aircraft and DOD 
had not decided whether to require all-weather capability. While DOD 
has acknowledged the need to improve UAS interoperability and address 
bandwidth and weather constraints, little progress has been made. Until 
DOD adopts and enforces interoperability and other standards, these 
challenges will likely remain and become more widespread as new UAS are 
developed and fielded. 

DODís approach to evaluating UAS joint operational performance has been 
unsound because it was not systematic or routine. DOD has deployed UAS 
before developing a joint operations performance measurement system, 
even though results-oriented performance measures can be used to 
monitor progress toward agency goals. DOD has generally relied on after-
action and maintenance reports which have useful but not necessarily 
joint performance information. DOD has also relied on short-duration 
study teams for some performance information but had not established 
ongoing or routine reporting systems. Thus, while continuing to invest 
in UAS, DOD has incomplete performance information on joint operations 
on which to base acquisition or modification decisions. In May 2005, 
U.S. Strategic Command began developing joint performance measures. 

What GAO Recommends: 

We are recommending that the Secretary of Defense develop and apply 
appropriate joint operating standards, and include specific performance 
indicators and baselines for analysis and systematic information 
reporting and analysis procedures in the new performance measurement 
system under development. 

In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD fully or partially 
concurred with GAOís recommendations. 

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-49.

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Sharon Pickup, at (202) 
512-9619, or pickups@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Results in Brief: 

Background: 

UAS Have Achieved Certain Mission Successes but DOD Faces Emerging 
Interoperability and Other Challenges on Joint Operations: 

DOD's Approach to Evaluating Joint UAS Performance on Operational 
Deployments Has Been Unsound: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendixes: 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Appendix III: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Related GAO Products: 

Table: 

Table 1: Bands in the Electromagnetic Spectrum Used by 12 Types of 
Unmanned Aircraft and Sensor Payloads: 

Figure: 

Figure 1: Predator Unmanned Aircraft with Sensor: 

Abbreviations: 

DOD: Department of Defense: 

UAS: unmanned aircraft systems: 

Letter December 13, 2005: 

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: 

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)[Footnote 1] consist of unmanned 
aircraft; sensors, weapons, and communications equipment carried on 
board the aircraft, known as "payloads"; and ground control stations 
that control the flight of the aircraft and receive information 
collected and transmitted by the payloads. UAS have been used 
successfully in recent military operations on intelligence, 
surveillance, and reconnaissance; and offensive strike missions. Due to 
the successes, U.S. forces are increasingly demanding that more UAS be 
supplied to them, prompting the Department of Defense (DOD) to try and 
rapidly develop and field these emerging technologies. Moreover, to 
meet the demand, DOD has substantially increased its investment in 
these systems from about $363 million in fiscal year 2001 to about $2.2 
billion in fiscal year 2005, not including supplemental appropriations. 

In March 2004, we reported that DOD's approach to planning for 
developing and fielding UAS did not provide reasonable assurance that 
its investment strategy will facilitate their efficient integration 
into the force structure.[Footnote 2] We also reported that DOD's 
approach increased the risk of future interoperability problems, which 
could undermine joint operations, and would likely be insufficient to 
prevent duplication of effort from one service-specific program to 
another. As a result, we recommended that DOD develop a strategic plan 
for these systems' development and fielding and assign the UAS Planning 
Task Force or other appropriate entity within DOD with sufficient 
authority to enforce program direction specified in the plan. DOD 
partially concurred with our recommendation to develop a strategic plan 
and nonconcurred with the recommendation to place an entity in charge. 
DOD's rationale for nonconcurring was that the Undersecretary of 
Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) and by extension its 
UAS Planning Task Force had sufficient authority to develop and enforce 
interoperability and other standards, and that the Joint Capabilities 
Integration and Development System process promoted joint war fighting 
and thus would avoid interoperability problems.[Footnote 3] In 
addition, DOD has issued guidance requiring interoperable 
communications capabilities in DOD weapons and other systems. 

As requested, we reviewed (1) the operational performance of UAS in 
recent joint operations and (2) the soundness of DOD's approach to 
evaluating joint UAS operational performance. To evaluate the 
operational performance of UAS in recent operations, we examined DOD or 
service regulations, directives, instructions, after-action reports, 
performance evaluations, and other documents. We also met with key DOD 
and service officials to discuss current UAS operational status, future 
plans, initiatives to address emerging challenges, and related issues. 
To review DOD's approach to evaluating joint UAS performance, we 
obtained relevant DOD directives, instructions, and other documents, 
and met with DOD and service officials to identify the performance 
measurement systems in place and operating. We determined that the data 
on the numbers and types of missions performed by UAS were sufficiently 
reliable for this review. We performed our work from July 2004 to 
October 2005 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. 

Results in Brief: 

DOD has achieved certain operational successes with UAS but 
communications and payload interoperability, electromagnetic spectrum, 
and inclement weather challenges have all emerged to hamper recent 
joint operations or prevent timely UAS employment. On the one hand, 
U.S. forces have used unmanned aircraft and sensor and weapons payloads 
to locate and engage targets in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2002 on both 
joint and service-specific missions.[Footnote 4] For example, the Air 
Force used its Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to locate 55 percent of 
time-critical targets to suppress enemy air defenses in Iraq in 2003 
and the Predator unmanned aircraft on over 5,800 sorties or about 
80,000 hours of flight on intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance, 
and armed strike missions from 2002 to 2005 in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 
addition, in 2004, an Army force used its Hunter unmanned aircraft to 
locate certain antiaircraft artillery; the Air Force sent an armed 
Predator unmanned aircraft to engage the antiaircraft artillery; and 
the Army sent the Hunter back for battle damage assessment. On the 
other hand, interoperability problems have emerged despite the DOD 
guidance requiring interoperability and the 2002 edition of DOD's 
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap 2002-2027[Footnote 5] identifying 
interoperability as a key goal. Specifically, some sensor or 
communications payloads and ground stations cannot easily exchange 
data, sometimes even within a single service, because they were not 
designed to interoperable communication standards. Moreover, the 2002 
Roadmap specifies some communications standards, but the 2005 edition 
of the Roadmap acknowledges that the detailed standards for 
interoperability have not been developed. To use noninteroperable 
sensors or communications payloads and ground stations, U.S. forces 
have relied on technical patches to link them. However, the technical 
patch process can delay receipt of the information by forces needing 
it, potentially preventing time-critical targeting. 

In addition, U.S. forces have also encountered another interoperability 
problem: they are unable to interchangeably use some payloads from one 
type of unmanned aircraft on another, a capability commonly called 
"payload commonality." DOD has at least six different types of sensor 
payloads, each able to collect different types of information. However, 
some cannot be used interchangeably on differing unmanned aircraft 
because DOD has not adopted a payload commonality standard to make them 
modular and thus permit attachment to most unmanned aircraft. As a 
result, commanders may have to delay missions if the appropriate sensor 
is available but no unmanned aircraft are able to carry it. 
Interoperability and payload commonality problems have arisen because 
the services' UAS development programs have been service-specific and 
insufficiently attentive to joint operational needs, according to U.S. 
Central Command. In addition to interoperability and payload 
commonality problems, certain electromagnetic spectrum frequencies are 
congested by the large number of UAS and other weapons or 
communications systems using the same frequency simultaneously. While 
some unmanned aircraft, sensor or communications payloads, and ground 
stations can change to different, less congested, frequencies, DOD had 
not required that the capability be included on UAS as of the time of 
our review, and most were consequently built without the ability to 
change. Thus, commanders have had to delay certain missions until 
frequency congestion cleared and DOD acknowledges that missions could 
eventually be delayed or cancelled if the problem worsens. 

Unmanned aircraft are more likely to be grounded in inclement weather 
than manned aircraft due in part to their lighter weight. DOD has 
neither required all-weather capability nor evaluated the performance 
trade-off that may arise from developing it even though it established 
all-weather capability as a goal in the 2002 Roadmap. DOD acknowledges 
that it (1) did not foresee the rapid technology development 
experienced with unmanned aircraft, sensor or communications payloads, 
and ground stations; (2) has provided unmanned aircraft and payloads 
rapidly to deployed forces to meet forces' demands for them; and (3) 
has not always adopted standards that might have prevented or mitigated 
some of these problems. While DOD also acknowledged the need to improve 
UAS interoperability and address bandwidth and weather constraints that 
undermine unmanned aircraft operations, little progress has been made. 
Until DOD and the services take steps to ensure that interoperable 
communications and payloads, electromagnetic spectrum reprogramming, 
and all-weather flying standards are developed and enforced for UAS, 
these problems are likely to continue and become more widespread as DOD 
continues to deploy these systems to meet forces' demands for them. 

DOD's approach to evaluating UAS joint operational performance has been 
unsound because it is not systematically focused on joint operations 
and is not routine. While results-oriented performance measures can be 
used to monitor progress toward agency goals, DOD has not developed 
adequate indicators of performance on joint operations or baselines 
against which to measure performance for developmental systems that are 
being used. In the meantime, DOD and the services have generally relied 
on available information including after-action and maintenance 
reports. Nonetheless, such information is not necessarily targeted to 
UAS and does not necessarily include reporting on key indicators to 
measure performance on joint operations, since the indicators have not 
been identified, and does not include baselines against which to apply 
the indicators to permit insight into performance. DOD has acknowledged 
that it tried to meet combat forces' increasing demands for UAS and 
consequently deployed the systems as quickly as possibly but without 
first developing the performance indicators and baselines. DOD had 
begun to develop performance measures by the time of our review. 
Performance reporting has also not been routine. Instead, DOD and the 
services have relied on short-duration study teams rather than ongoing 
processes for obtaining performance information on joint operations. 
While these teams have produced some useful information, the approach 
does not routinely provide information that would permit systematic 
performance assessments since the teams are not permanently established 
and did not employ consistent study parameters. DOD has acknowledged 
the need for systematic joint performance reporting and in May 2005 
tasked U.S. Strategic Command responsibility for developing appropriate 
performance measures and reporting systems. Until DOD develops a 
systematic approach to UAS performance measurement and reporting on 
joint operations, it will have incomplete information on which to base 
acquisition or system modification decisions. 

To address the emerging challenges that have hampered joint operations 
or prevented effective employment of UAS, we are making recommendations 
to the Secretary of Defense to develop or adjust communications 
interoperability, payload commonality, and electromagnetic spectrum 
reprogramming standards; ensure that the new performance measurement 
system includes indicators that can be used to assess progress in 
overcoming communications interoperability, payload commonality, and 
electromagnetic spectrum challenges; and also ensure that the new 
performance measurement system includes other appropriate performance 
indicators for collection, baselines against which to apply the 
indicators, and a systematic means to collect joint operations 
performance information and report it to organizations that develop and 
field UAS. In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD partially 
or fully concurred with our recommendations and indicated that it had 
initiated actions to address them. DOD's comments and our evaluations 
of them are provided later in this report. 

Background: 

DOD defines UAS as a powered aircraft that does not carry a human 
operator; can be land-, air-, or ship-launched; uses aerodynamic forces 
to provide lift; can be autonomously or remotely piloted; can be 
expendable or recoverable; and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload. 
Generally, UAS consist of the aircraft; a flight control station; 
information and retrieval or processing stations; and, sometimes, 
wheeled land vehicles that carry launch and recovery platforms. UAS 
carry a payload including sensors for intelligence, surveillance, or 
reconnaissance to provide real-time intelligence to battlefield 
commanders. When used on an intelligence, surveillance, or 
reconnaissance mission, generally, the aircraft carries a sensor 
payload capable of detecting heat, movement, or taking photographs or 
video of ground-based targets. This information is then transmitted to 
ground stations or satellites via a communications payload for 
retransmission to forces needing the information to support operations. 
Unmanned aircraft can also be armed for offensive strike missions and 
be used to attack ground-based targets. UAS require adequate intra-or 
intertheater communications capabilities using the electromagnetic 
spectrum to permit operators to control certain aircraft, and also 
permit communications equipment to transmit the information obtained by 
the sensor payload to ground commanders or other users. 

Effective joint operations are critical because combatant commanders 
operate in a joint environment by applying military force appropriate 
for their operational circumstance using the unique capabilities of 
each of the services. In a changing security environment, joint 
operations are becoming more important given the complex nature of 
military operations. This importance is being driven by the combatant 
commands' need to combine the capabilities of multiple services to 
address the global threat, as well as the growing interdependence of 
capabilities among the services. Moreover, effective joint operations 
permit combatant commanders to leverage the capabilities associated 
with each service to accomplish operational missions. As with manned 
aircraft, UAS provide another capability that can be applied by 
combatant commanders in joint operations. 

Evolution of UAS Development and Use: 

Initially, UAS were seen as complementary systems that augmented 
existing war fighting capabilities. However, UAS are also evolving into 
more significant roles, for which they can provide primary capability. 
For example, the Global Hawk UAS may eventually replace the U-2 
reconnaissance aircraft, and the Unmanned Combat Aerial System may 
eventually perform electronic warfare missions currently performed by 
the EA-6 Prowler aircraft as well as offensive deep strike missions. 
Moreover, UAS are figuring prominently in plans to transform the 
military into a more strategically responsive force and are expected to 
be an integral part of this information-based force. For example, the 
Army is developing the Future Combat System and a new generation of 
unmanned aircraft and other systems to enable information to flow 
freely across the battlefield. 

Since 2001, DOD has significantly increased its planned expenditure for 
UAS and associated systems, and, more recently, the systems have 
continued to be heavily used in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, over 10 
different types of UAS have been used in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
According to the UAS Planning Task Force, as of August 2005, DOD had 
approximately 1,500 unmanned aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 
addition, the budget request for UAS grew significantly between fiscal 
years 2001 and 2005, from about $363 million to about $2.2 billion, and 
further growth is likely. These figures do not include any supplemental 
appropriations. 

Fewer than half of the UAS in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of our 
report had reached full-rate production or initial operating 
capability. They were still considered developmental, and consequently 
were covered by DOD Directive 5000.1, The Defense Acquisition System 
and DOD Instruction 5000.2, Operation of the Defense Acquisition 
System, both issued in May 2003.[Footnote 6] The directive mandates 
that systems, units, and forces shall be able to provide and accept 
data, information, materiel, and services to and from other systems, 
units, and forces, and shall effectively interoperate with other U.S. 
forces, among other things. The instruction implements the directive 
and is intended to provide DOD officials with a framework for 
identifying mission needs and technology to meet the needs, as the 
basis for weapons system acquisitions. Finally, the 2002 Roadmap 
emphasizes the need for interoperable unmanned aircraft and payloads by 
identifying a number of existing standards that are to be complied with 
in systems' development in such areas as common data links, 
interoperable data links for video systems, and electromagnetic 
spectrum frequencies that should be used for data transmission under a 
variety of circumstances.[Footnote 7] 

Prior GAO Reviews of DOD's Planning for Developing and Fielding UAS: 

In March 2004, we reported that DOD's approach to planning for 
developing and fielding UAS does not provide reasonable assurance that 
its investment will facilitate efficient integration into the force 
structure and avoid interoperability problems, although DOD had taken 
some steps to improve UAS program management. For example, in 2001, DOD 
established the Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Planning Task Force (now 
known as the UAS Planning Task Force) in the Office of the 
Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics). To 
communicate its vision and promote commonality of UAS, the Task Force 
published the 2002 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Roadmap, which described 
current programs, identified potential missions, and provided guidance 
on emerging technologies. While the Roadmap demonstrated some elements 
of a strategic plan, neither it nor other key documents represented a 
comprehensive strategic plan to ensure that the services and DOD 
agencies develop systems that complement each other, perform all 
required missions, and avoid duplication. Moreover, the Task Force 
served in an advisory capacity to the Undersecretary, but had little 
authority to enforce program direction. For their part, service 
officials told us that they developed service-specific planning 
documents to meet their own needs and operational concepts without 
considering those of other services or the Roadmap. In consequence, we 
concluded that without a strategic plan and an oversight body with 
sufficient authority to enforce program direction, DOD risked 
interoperability problems, which could undermine joint operations. 
Thus, in our 2004 report, we recommended that DOD establish a strategic 
plan and assign an office authority and responsibility to enforce 
program direction communicated in the plan to promote joint operations. 

DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to establish a 
strategic plan and nonconcurred with our recommendation to assign an 
office with authority and responsibility to enforce program direction. 
DOD asserted that the Undersecretary had sufficient authority to 
integrate UAS into joint operations and that the Task Force had been 
established to promote payload commonality, develop and enforce 
interface standards, and ensure multiservice coordination. Moreover, 
DOD indicated that the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development 
System process focuses on developing integrated joint warfighting 
capabilities and thus would avoid interoperability problems that we 
believed were likely. 

UAS Have Achieved Certain Mission Successes but DOD Faces Emerging 
Interoperability and Other Challenges on Joint Operations: 

DOD has achieved certain operational successes with UAS including 
collecting intelligence with unmanned aircraft sensor payloads and 
conducting offensive strike missions with weapons payloads in 
Afghanistan and Iraq. Nonetheless, U.S. forces employing UAS have 
encountered certain communications and payload interoperability 
problems (called payload commonality problems), electromagnetic 
spectrum constraints, and inclement weather groundings of unmanned 
aircraft during recent operations. While DOD has acknowledged the need 
to improve UAS interoperability and address bandwidth and weather 
constraints that undermine unmanned aircraft operations, little 
progress has been made. 

UAS Have Played an Integral Role in Mission Accomplishments: 

DOD has achieved certain operational successes from its use of a 
variety of unmanned aircraft and their sensor, communications, and 
armaments payloads. In operations in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002, 
U.S. forces have used UAS in integral roles on intelligence, 
surveillance, reconnaissance, and offensive strike joint or service-
specific missions. For example: 

* The Air Force used its Predator unmanned aircraft with sensor or 
armaments payloads on over 5,800 sorties or totaling more than 80,000 
hours of flight on a variety of intelligence, surveillance, and 
reconnaissance; close air support; armed strike; and other missions in 
Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 through 2005.[Footnote 8] For example, 
the Predator's sensor and communications payloads have provided video 
images to ground forces to support their operations or to strike enemy 
targets with Hellfire missiles. 

* Certain Air Force units used the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft's 
sensor payloads to identify 55 percent of the time-critical targets to 
defeat enemy air defenses in Iraq in March and April 2003. To enhance 
joint operations, the Air Force developed procedures and tactics to 
allow the Global Hawk's sensor payloads to provide more direct support 
to ground force missions. 

* In 2004, an Army force used its Hunter unmanned aircraft and sensor 
payload to locate an enemy antiaircraft artillery weapon that had been 
firing at coalition force aircraft. Then the Air Force sent a Predator 
armed with a Hellfire missile to attack the enemy weapon. Within 
minutes of the Predator strike, the Army unit sent its Hunter back to 
transmit information needed for battle damage assessment. 

* In 2004, an Army force operating an I-Gnat unmanned aircraft in Iraq 
detected a potential ambush of Marine Corps forces and the Army unit 
used information from the I-Gnat's sensor payload to successfully 
adjust mortar fire onto the enemy position. 

* Recently, the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps forces have used their 
unmanned aircraft and their sensor and communications payloads to 
locate numerous targets in Iraq and Afghanistan to permit U.S. forces 
to destroy the targets. 

UAS Interoperability Remains a Challenge: 

While achieving certain successes with the use of unmanned aircraft and 
their payloads, certain interoperability challenges have also emerged 
during recent operations despite certain DOD directives requiring 
interoperability and the emphasis on interoperability in the 2002 
Roadmap. First, DOD Directive 5000.1 specifies that systems, units, and 
forces shall be able to provide and accept data and information to and 
from other systems and shall effectively interoperate with other U.S. 
forces. Second, the Roadmap specifies five data standards for 
formatting data, a communication standard to ensure adoption of a 
common data link, and a variety of file transfer, physical media, and 
other standards applicable to unmanned aircraft or their sensor and 
communications payloads. However, the 2005 edition of the Roadmap 
indicates that the detailed standards for interoperability have not 
been developed. In effect, the absence of such standards has led to the 
development of UAS that are not interoperable. In operations in 
Afghanistan and Iraq, interoperability problems have emerged. 
Specifically, during operations, DOD has learned that unmanned aircraft 
sensor and communications payloads and ground stations were not 
designed to common data standards and thus are not interoperable, even 
within a single service in certain circumstances. For example: 

* Army forces operate both the Shadow and Hunter unmanned aircraft and 
associated ground stations but discovered that these systems are not 
interoperable. Specifically, while the Shadow's sensor and 
communications payload is able to transmit information to its own 
ground station, it is unable to transmit to a Hunter ground station. 
Similarly, the Hunter's sensor and communication payloads are able to 
transmit to a Hunter ground station but not Shadow's. Onward 
transmission to forces needing the information is equally constrained 
if they do not have compatible equipment for receiving the information. 
As a result, the Army has missed an opportunity to effectively leverage 
the technology inherent in either system for the benefit of operational 
forces that need the information. At the time of our review, the Army 
had begun an initiative to make the Shadow and Hunter unmanned aircraft 
ground stations compatible with either aircraft. 

When communication systems are incompatible, operating forces may be 
prompted to operate their own UAS, thus increasing the numbers of 
systems operating in the same area. To permit the sharing of tactical 
intelligence obtained by unmanned aircraft sensor payloads, the 
services or combatant commands have developed certain technical patches 
permitting compatibility but slowing data transmission. As we pointed 
out in 2003, in some cases, DOD needs hours or days to transmit 
information to multiple services.[Footnote 9] However, slow 
intelligence data transmission can undermine U.S. forces' ability to 
attack time-critical targets or allow the targets to escape. U.S. 
Central Command acknowledges that timely data dissemination is critical 
to combat operations. 

Communications interoperability problems are a long-standing problem. 
In 2001, we reported that each of the military services plans, 
acquires, and operates systems to meet its own operational concepts but 
not necessarily the requirements of joint operations in spite of the 
DOD directive requiring interoperability.[Footnote 10] In our 2004 
unmanned aerial vehicle report, we reported that the services engaged 
in little coordination in developing their unmanned aerial vehicle 
roadmaps and that they did not view the UAS Planning Task Force's 2002-
2027 Roadmap as a strategic plan or an overarching architecture for 
integrating UAS into the force structure. In the absence of adequately 
developed and implemented standards and in contravention of the DOD 
guidance, the services have continued to develop their unmanned systems 
to their own standards, but without regard to the others' standards. At 
the same time, DOD continues to develop and field UAS without adjusting 
the standards, likely causing the problem to become even more 
widespread. Moreover, the UAS used in current operations were built 
before the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System became 
fully operational and thus has had little impact on the problem. 
Consequently, the information collected cannot always be quickly 
transmitted to users needing it, undermining joint operations and 
potentially leading to future costly initiatives to modify existing 
unmanned aircraft, sensors and communications payloads, and ground 
stations to overcome interoperability problems. 

In addition to communications interoperability problems, payload 
interoperability (commonly referred to as "payload commonality") 
problems also exist. DOD has developed at least six different sensor 
payloads each able to collect different types of information. These 
sensor payloads are attached to an unmanned aircraft and flown over 
operational areas to observe activity of interest on the ground in a 
target area and to transmit observations to ground or air forces or 
other users as tactical intelligence. As an example, figure 1 displays 
a Predator unmanned aircraft with a sensor payload attached underneath. 

Figure 1: Predator Unmanned Aircraft with Sensor: 

[See PDF for image] 

[End of figure] 

However, many sensor payloads can be attached to only one type of 
unmanned aircraft because DOD has not adopted a payload commonality 
standard even though this problem was identified nearly 20 years ago. 
As a result, commanders may have to delay missions if the appropriate 
sensor is available but no unmanned aircraft is able to carry it. We 
discussed this problem in 1988 when we reported that DOD had not 
adequately emphasized payload commonality for unmanned aircraft and 
that Congress had stressed the need for DOD to consider payload 
commonality in 1985.[Footnote 11] The 2002 Roadmap acknowledged the 
need for sensor payload commonality where practical, but limited 
progress has been made. 

In addition to the flexibility inherent in the communications 
standards, according to U.S. Central Command based on its experience in 
Persian Gulf operations, unmanned aircraft development has been service-
centric and lacks an overarching employment doctrine to shape 
development to achieve aircraft and sensor interoperable communications 
and payload commonality. Furthermore, a Joint Forces Command official 
told us that combatant commanders can not take full advantage of the 
dissimilar unmanned aircraft or the sensor payload data produced due to 
the interoperability problems. 

Congested Electromagnetic Spectrum Has Hampered UAS Operational 
Effectiveness: 

Unmanned aircraft and their sensor, armaments, and communications 
payloads depend on reliable access to the electromagnetic 
spectrum.[Footnote 12] However, the spectrum is increasingly 
constrained, potentially undermining joint operations by requiring 
delays in an unmanned aircraft flight or, if the problem worsens, 
cancellation. Unmanned aircraft operators use the electromagnetic 
spectrum to maintain contact with the aircraft to control its flight, 
fire its weapons if armed, and receive information collected by the 
sensor payloads. Certain spectrum frequencies are sometimes referred to 
as bands and the amount of the spectrum needed to permit transmission 
of information is referred to as bandwidth. DOD officials told us that 
more bandwidth is needed to transmit video and other information 
obtained by sensor payloads than to maintain flight control of the 
aircraft. Numerous weapons also use electromagnetic spectrum and share 
it with UAS but they can interfere with each other during operations if 
they operate on the same frequency at the same time. 

The military services have experienced bandwidth capacity constraints, 
limiting both the number of UAS and other systems that can be 
effectively operated simultaneously and the amount of available data 
that can be transmitted from the unmanned aircraft communications 
payload. For example, insufficient bandwidth limits U.S. forces' 
ability to download video and radar images via satellite from more than 
one aircraft at a time. As a result, data transmission and relay are 
delayed, undermining U.S. forces' ability to engage time-critical 
targets and possibly permitting the target to escape, unless 
alternative information sources are available on a timely basis. Army 
officials informed us that data link limitations are due primarily to 
frequency congestion. Table 1 displays the bands used by 12 different 
unmanned aircraft or models of unmanned aircraft for flight control and 
sensor payload data transmission. As shown in the table, several UAS 
rely on the C-band for their data transmission capability, and only 2 
of the 12 UAS can be reprogrammed to another band. 

Table 1: Bands in the Electromagnetic Spectrum Used by 12 Types of 
Unmanned Aircraft and Sensor Payloads: 

Band: C Band; 
Flight control: 3; 
Data transmission: 5. 

Band: Ku Band; 
Flight control: 3; 
Data transmission: 3. 

Band: C or Ku band; 
Flight control: 2; 
Data transmission: 2. 

Band: Other; 
Flight control: 4; 
Data transmission: 2. 

Band: Total; 
Flight control: 12; 
Data transmission: 12. 

Source: DOD. 

[End of table] 

The 2002 Roadmap established a goal of modifying the Army's Shadow UAV 
to permit it to operate a common tactical data link in Ku-band and not 
the more congested C-band. This goal had not been met at the time of 
our review and the Shadow unmanned aircraft still operated in C-band. 
Similarly, the 2002 Roadmap established a goal of moving the Air 
Force's Predator unmanned aircraft video sensor payload from C-band to 
Ku-band for line of sight operations. However, the goal had not been 
met at the time of our report. 

Moreover, the problem cannot be easily overcome without potentially 
costly modifications to existing systems because DOD has not required 
unmanned aircraft or sensor payloads to be reprogrammable from one band 
to another and therefore has not established such standards. As a 
result, most have been designed and built without the flexibility to 
operate in differing frequencies or bands to avoid congested 
frequencies, thus sometimes preventing timely information transmission 
or delaying their flight without interfering with or experiencing 
interference from other UAS or other weapons systems. 

Inclement Weather Limits Some Unmanned Aircraft Operations: 

Unmanned aircraft are more likely to be grounded by inclement weather 
than manned aircraft due in part to their lighter weight. Dust storms, 
strong winds, rain, or icing prevent some unmanned aircraft from 
flying, thus denying U.S. forces critically needed information unless 
alternative data collection or offensive strike capabilities are 
available. Specifically, winds up to 80 miles per hour in Iraq and 
Afghanistan have reduced the availability of most unmanned aircraft and 
dust storms have undermined the use of some sensor payloads. Moreover, 
the 2002 Roadmap indicates that icing has been a primary factor in two 
accidents involving the Hunter unmanned aircraft and three crashes of 
the Predator unmanned aircraft. The Roadmap established a goal to 
incorporate all-weather capabilities into future UAS. However, little 
progress has been made because DOD has not adopted standards for all-
weather capability to be considered in development, despite the 
Roadmap's stating the goal. As a result, systems have been developed 
without it. At the same time, according to a UAS Planning Task Force 
official, developing unmanned aircraft with all-weather capabilities 
may result in some degradation in performance, such as a reduced flying 
range. At the time of our review, DOD had not determined whether all-
weather capability was worth the trade-off of potentially degraded 
performance. 

DOD Has Made Little Progress in Addressing the Challenges: 

While DOD has acknowledged the need to improve UAS interoperability and 
address bandwidth and weather constraints that undermine unmanned 
aircraft operations, little progress has been made. On the one hand, to 
begin to address the problems, DOD has taken a number of steps as 
listed below: 

* In August 2005, DOD issued an updated version of its roadmap, 
entitled 2005 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap, to guide acquisition 
and interoperability. Among other things, the 2005 Roadmap establishes 
the goal of enhancing joint service collaboration as a means to improve 
joint operations. 

* At the time of our review, the Office of the Secretary of Defense was 
preparing an action plan to address a number of shortfalls including 
interoperability and other problems within U.S. Central Command's area 
of responsibility, although the plan was limited to just this command 
and would not necessarily solve the problems that UAS might encounter 
elsewhere. 

* DOD plans to reemphasize the role that the Joint Capabilities 
Integration and Development System could play in all new UAS 
developments by trying to ensure that DOD develops systems to support 
joint operations, achieve commonality to the extent practical, and 
identify gaps in DOD's ability to carry out its warfighting missions. 

* U.S. Joint Forces Command has developed certain initiatives to 
improve UAS interoperability by conducting experiments to demonstrate 
aircraft modifications and new concepts of operations, although such 
modifications can be costly. 

In addition, on June 1, 2005, DOD's Joint Requirements Oversight 
Council established a new Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center of 
Excellence and a Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Overarching Integrated 
Process Team. The Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Overarching Integrated 
Process Team has subsequently been renamed the Joint Unmanned Aircraft 
Systems Material Review Board. These joint forums will help the 
services manage development of new UAS or modifications to existing 
UAS, and they will help the services to develop new or revised concepts 
of operations for more effective use. At the same time, the UAS 
Planning Task Force will try to ensure that the services' UAS 
acquisition programs are coordinated, and a Task Force representative 
is to be a member of the Joint Overarching Integrated Process Team. DOD 
views these changes as means to more effectively manage service UAS 
programs. While these changes appear to be steps in the right 
direction, it is too early for us to tell if they will solve the 
interoperability and other problems that we identified. 

Furthermore, payload commonality, interoperability of communications 
and data transmission systems, and inclement weather flying 
capabilities that we identified as impacting recent operations, had 
been identified previously as problems already occurring or likely to 
occur. First, our 1988 unmanned aerial vehicle report indicated that 
DOD had not adequately emphasized payload commonality for these 
aircraft. Second, our 2001 report found interoperability problems due 
to the services' continued practice of acquiring systems to support 
their own operations but not necessarily that of the other services. 
Third, DOD's guidance requires interoperability but the detailed 
standards have not been developed. Lastly, the 2002 edition of the 
Roadmap identified the need to improve interoperability of 
communications systems for UAS and also identified inclement weather 
capability as a problem undermining UAS operations and established 
goals to address it. Despite all the emphasis, problems related to 
communications and payload interoperability, and all-weather capability 
problems remain. DOD acknowledges that it (1) did not foresee the rapid 
technological development experienced with unmanned aircraft, sensor or 
communications payloads, and ground stations; (2) has provided unmanned 
aircraft and payloads rapidly to deployed forces to meet forces' 
demands for them; and (3) has not always adopted new or enforced 
existing standards that might have prevented or mitigated some of these 
problems. As a result, while DOD has issued a directive, instructions, 
guidance, and roadmaps, and established at least five different 
organizations to promote UAS interoperability and address other 
unmanned aircraft and payload developmental needs, no organization has 
or has exercised sufficient authority to enforce program direction, or 
ensure that the standards and guidance are in concurrence. As a result, 
the services continued to develop and field these systems without fully 
complying with the interoperability requirements stated in key guidance 
or addressing known payload commonality problems. 

DOD's Approach to Evaluating Joint UAS Performance on Operational 
Deployments Has Been Unsound: 

DOD's approach to evaluating joint UAS performance on operational 
deployments is unsound because it has not implemented a systematic 
approach to evaluating such performance. Instead, DOD has relied on 
systems for evaluating performance that are not focused on joint 
operations and are nonroutine, and as a result the department has 
little assurance that the information that has been collected 
represents the key performance indicators needed to assess performance 
on joint operations. 

DOD Lacks Performance Indicators to Assess Certain Joint UAS 
Performance: 

DOD has not implemented a systematic approach to evaluating joint UAS 
performance on operational deployments. As we previously noted in our 
2004 report, the Government Performance and Results Act's strategic 
planning framework specifies that results-oriented performance measures 
can be used to monitor progress toward agency goals and that such 
performance measurements should be developed and used to monitor 
progress. At the time of our report, DOD was only beginning to decide 
on key indicators of performance that would be used to assess unmanned 
aircraft, payload, and ground station performance on joint operations. 
To date, DOD has relied on service-specific information that addressed 
certain UAS performance. For example, some forces filed after-action 
reports and maintenance reports addressing UAS performance. While 
producing some useful information, these reports have not necessarily 
been specifically targeted to joint UAS operations, nor do they 
systematically identify key indicators for collection which could be 
used to develop joint operational performance baselines and permit 
performance measurement against the baseline. Thus, DOD has little 
assurance that the information that has been collected represents the 
key performance indicators needed to assess joint operations 
performance. 

DOD officials told us that they have tried to keep pace with operating 
forces' demands for more unmanned aircraft and their payloads, and 
therefore the services have deployed them while still under development 
within the DOD acquisition system. These deployments have often 
occurred before identification of key performance indicators that would 
need to be collected to be used to evaluate performance. In effect, the 
services have bought and deployed unmanned aircraft, sensor and 
communications payloads, and ground stations and tried to evaluate 
their effectiveness all at the same time. On the one hand, this has 
permitted DOD to provide operating forces with new capabilities 
represented by the aircraft and their payloads. On the other hand, it 
has also resulted in DOD and the services sometimes learning of joint 
performance problems based on reporting from actual operations only if 
after-action reports or other reporting mentioned the problem. 
Nonetheless, without appropriate performance measures and baselines 
against which to assess performance on joint operations, even anecdotal 
information can have limited utility because officials are less likely 
to be able to assess the magnitude of the problem, or even become aware 
of it if no reports identify it. 

DOD has acknowledged the need to develop specific performance 
indicators for unmanned aircraft and their payloads on joint operations 
and had begun to develop them at the time of our report. First, the 
Army recently began an initiative to develop performance indicators and 
a baseline against which to assess performance. However, while this 
approach may produce useful information on which to assess the 
performance of Army-operated unmanned aircraft, payloads, and ground 
stations, it was not designed to address joint performance. The other 
three services had not started to develop specific performance 
indicators and baselines for unmanned aircraft at the time of our 
review. Second, in May 2005, DOD assigned U.S. Strategic Command 
responsibility for the development of joint performance indicators but 
the effort was just getting started at the time of our review. 

DOD's UAS Joint Performance Reporting Has Not Been Routine: 

In addition to anecdotal performance reporting, DOD has not established 
routine performance reporting mechanisms for UAS operations but instead 
has relied on sometimes short-duration study teams to gather relevant 
joint operational performance information. For example, in November 
2004, DOD established a group known as a "Tiger Team" to identify 
opportunities for improving the joint operational effectiveness of UAS. 
However, this team was established on a temporary basis and had a 
limited mission to identify improvements only in the U.S. Central 
Command area of responsibility. The Tiger Team did identify a number of 
areas needing improvement. For example, it determined that forces in 
the region need Full Motion Video capability to provide images of 
actual events as they occur. The team also determined that a need 
exists to address electromagnetic spectrum limitations hampering UAS 
operations. However, the team identified the electromagnetic spectrum 
problem only after the UAS had been deployed and U.S. forces had tried 
to use them on operational missions. In addition, also in 2004, another 
DOD short-duration study team evaluated the operational performance of 
the Shadow unmanned aircraft. Lastly, the Army conducted a one-time 
comprehensive review of the effectiveness of its UAS in theaters of 
operations. While these teams developed useful performance information, 
the approach does not represent a systematic or long-term means to 
obtain joint UAS performance information since the teams are not 
permanently established and they did not use consistent study 
parameters. 

Finally, even in the instances where some ongoing processes were used, 
the information obtained was relevant only on a service-specific but 
not a joint basis. For example, the Marine Corps uses its Operational 
Advisory Group process to determine needed improvements in its UAS 
operations. While this group has developed useful information that may 
assist the Marine Corps in enhancing its ability to effectively use UAS 
in operations, the information developed is likely to have limited 
utility for joint operations. 

DOD acknowledges that the speed with which unmanned aircraft, payloads, 
communications, and associated technology are being developed, along 
with the imperative to provide emerging technologies quickly to 
operating forces, have resulted in the deployment of developmental 
systems before adequate performance reporting systems have been 
established. Consequently, while the systems are being successfully 
used in overseas operations, DOD does not have reasonable assurance 
that it is well informed on opportunities to further enhance the 
ability of operational forces to take advantage of UAS capabilities. 

Conclusions: 

DOD has achieved certain operational successes with UAS but certain 
challenges have also emerged that have hampered joint operations or 
prevented effective employment of UAS. These challenges are caused by 
the limited attention paid to interoperability standards for UAS and 
the lack of detailed interoperability standards. Development and 
implementation of appropriate interoperability, payload commonality, 
and other standards help to ensure that such problems are addressed 
during development and any problems are fixed prior to deployment. 
Moreover, until DOD assesses the extent to which a lack of detailed 
standards undermines the purpose of the broad standards by allowing 
development of noninteroperable systems and enforces common standards 
among the services, problems are likely to continue and possibly be 
repeated and made more widespread as new unmanned aircraft, sensor and 
communication payloads, ground stations, and related equipment are 
developed and fielded. In addition, costly modifications might be 
needed later. 

The unsoundness in the approach DOD has taken to assessing joint UAS 
performance in operational deployments was due to a lack of accepted 
performance indicators and a routine system for collecting performance 
information. Until DOD develops specific indicators of UAS joint 
operational performance, establishes appropriate baselines against 
which to measure performance, and communicates which indicators 
operating forces should systematically collect and report to 
appropriate users, DOD will lack reasonable assurance that it is 
adequately informed on UAS performance on joint operations. Moreover, 
DOD may also be poorly informed as to its progress in addressing 
interoperability and other problems and may therefore be less likely to 
avoid the same problems in future UAS development and fielding. 

Lastly, in our 2004 report, we recommended that DOD establish a 
strategic plan and an office with sufficient authority to enforce 
program direction to avoid interoperability problems and for other 
purposes. In nonconcurring with our recommendation to assign an office 
with sufficient authority to enforce program direction, DOD indicated 
that the UAS Planning Task Force and Joint Capabilities Integration and 
Development System had sufficient authority and would address 
interoperability, payload commonality, and other problems. However, 
these problems persist. Consequently, we continue to believe that 
sustained management attention is warranted. Without such attention, 
DOD continues to risk undercutting the benefit of its continued 
investment in UAS. Consequently, we continue to believe that our prior 
recommendation has merit, but we are not reiterating it because DOD 
indicated that it will not implement it. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

To address the challenges emerging in joint operations, we recommend 
that the Secretary of Defense direct the Undersecretary of Defense 
(Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), the Chairman of the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, the service secretaries, and other appropriate 
organizations to work together to take the following four actions: 

* develop or adjust communications interoperability standards and 
electromagnetic frequency reprogramming capabilities standards and 
ensure that they are applied to new or modified unmanned aircraft, 
sensor and communications payloads, ground stations, and related 
equipment; 

* develop sensor and other payload commonality standards where 
practical and enforce such standards when modifying existing unmanned 
aircraft or payloads and developing new ones; 

* develop appropriately detailed UAS interoperability standards; and: 

* determine whether unmanned aircraft need all-weather flying 
capabilities, identify any performance degradation associated with all-
weather flying capabilities, and obtain all-weather capabilities where 
appropriate. 

To improve joint operational performance reporting, we recommend that 
the Secretary of Defense direct the Commander of the U.S. Strategic 
Command to ensure that the performance measurement system being 
developed by the command at a minimum: 

* measures how effectively UAS perform their missions by identifying 
quantifiable goals and comparing results with desired outcomes; 

* identifies the specific performance indicator information that needs 
to be collected to adequately assess joint performance; 

* develops indicators that assess communications and payload 
interoperability, and the extent to which electromagnetic spectrum 
congestion is undermining joint operations; 

* establishes baselines and applies the identified indicators against 
the baselines to gauge success in joint UAS performance; and: 

* develops a way to systematically collect identified performance 
information and routinely reports it to organizations that develop and 
field UAS. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

DOD provided written comments on a draft of this report. These comments 
are reprinted in their entirety in appendix II. We made five 
recommendations and DOD fully or partially concurred with them. It also 
provided technical comments, which we incorporated into our report as 
appropriate. 

First, DOD concurred with our recommendation for the appropriate DOD 
organizations to work together to develop or adjust communications 
interoperability standards and electromagnetic frequency reprogramming 
capabilities standards and ensure that they are applied to new or 
modified unmanned aircraft, sensor and communications payloads, ground 
stations, and related equipment. In concurring, DOD indicated that it 
recognized the utility of communications interoperability and the need 
to improve this capability and will direct the services to use common 
frequencies and data links to enhance communications interoperability. 

Second, in partially concurring with our recommendation to develop and 
enforce sensor and other payload commonality standards where practical, 
DOD commented that it does not typically focus on payload 
interchangeability. Instead, DOD pointed out that unmanned aircraft 
payload procurement is a service responsibility and is dependent on 
service mission requirements, unmanned aircraft physical design 
limitations, and rapid technological evolution. Our report recognizes 
that it is not practical for all unmanned aircraft sensors and payloads 
to be common due to the various sizes of some aircraft and we worded 
our recommendation accordingly. 

Third, DOD fully concurred with our recommendation that the appropriate 
DOD organizations work together to develop appropriately detailed UAS 
interoperability standards. DOD indicated that the UAS Roadmap 2005-
2030 released in August 2005 discusses the preferred framework, 
methodology, and standards for achieving UAS interoperability. DOD 
outlined a number of actions that it has taken to address UAS 
interoperability standards, including ratifying a North Atlantic Treaty 
Organization Standards Agreement aimed at achieving joint and combined 
interoperability. The Joint Chiefs of Staff has tasked the newly formed 
Joint UAS Material Review Board and Joint UAV Center of Excellence to 
provide recommendations for continuing to improve UAS interoperability. 

Fourth, DOD fully concurred with our recommendation to determine 
whether unmanned aircraft need all-weather flying capabilities, 
identify any performance degradation associated with all-weather 
capabilities, and obtain all-weather capabilities where appropriate. 
DOD commented that combatant commanders should expect UAS to support 
operations in diverse weather conditions. Further, DOD indicated that 
as UAS capabilities improve, the weather conditions these systems will 
need to operate in will also increase. However, DOD also points out 
that it is not cost effective to expect all classes of unmanned 
aircraft to have an all-weather capability. We agree. The intention of 
our recommendation is for DOD to determine those UAS for which all-
weather capabilities are cost effective and to add such capabilities 
when appropriate. 

Finally, DOD partially concurred with our recommendation that U.S. 
Strategic Command ensure that the performance measurement system being 
developed at a minimum includes quantifiable goals, performance 
baselines, systematic collection procedures, measures of communications 
and payload interoperability, and performance indicators against which 
to measure performance. DOD indicated that the U.S. Strategic Command 
has drafted a Joint Functional Component Concept of Operations that 
includes metrics to gauge the force's ability to meet intelligence, 
surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements. Moreover, DOD stated 
that in conjunction with the services, intelligence community, 
combatant commanders, and other DOD organizations, this action would 
facilitate not only the evaluation of UAS performance but would enable 
DOD to have the necessary information available to assess such factors 
as UAS requirements, mission accomplishment, UAS capabilities, and 
customer satisfaction. DOD also pointed out that the performance 
measures are in development and will require service participation to 
define the specific data and methodology which will result in useful 
information. While we acknowledge that these actions should address 
many of the data elements that we believe are necessary to evaluate 
UAS, we continue to believe that effective communications, 
interoperability, and avoidance of frequency congestion are important 
contributors to the success of joint operations. Therefore, we continue 
to believe that DOD should ensure that, at a minimum, the U.S. 
Strategic Command includes the data elements we recommended in its 
performance measurement system. In addition, we agree that other 
organizations including the services, should participate in the 
development of this measurement system if appropriate. 

We are sending copies of this report to other appropriate congressional 
committees, the Secretary of Defense, the secretaries of the Army, the 
Navy, and the Air Force; the Commandant of the Marine Corps; the 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Director, Office of 
Management and Budget. We will also make copies available to other 
interested parties upon request. In addition, the report will be 
available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please call 
me at (202) 512-9619 or email at [Hyperlink, pickups@gao.gov]. Contact 
points for our Office of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may 
be found on the last page of this report. The GAO contact and key 
contributors are listed in appendix III. 

Signed by: 

Sharon Pickup: 
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 

[End of section] 

Appendixes: 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

To evaluate the operational performance of unmanned aircraft systems 
(UAS) in recent operations, we examined the Department of Defense (DOD) 
regulations, directives, and instructions as well as service guidance 
and documentation on UAS. We met with key DOD and service officials, 
including those from the UAS Planning Task Force and UAS program 
managers, to discuss the current status and future plans for these 
systems. We reviewed the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap 2002-2027 
because this document establishes an overall DOD management framework 
for developing and employing UAS DOD-wide and the update, 2005 Unmanned 
Aircraft Systems Roadmap. During discussion and visits with DOD and 
service officials, we obtained and reviewed DOD and service analyses, 
briefings, and summary reports describing each of the UAS used in 
supporting recent combat and combat support operations. This included 
obtaining detailed information on current and future UAS operational 
capabilities. Additionally, we obtained information on the numbers and 
types of missions performed by UAS, as well as the methods used by the 
services to evaluate UAS performance in accomplishing those missions. 
To assess the reliability and types of missions provided to us by DOD, 
we (1) interviewed knowledgeable officials about the processes for 
collecting and maintaining the data and (2) reviewed the data for 
completeness and reasonableness by comparing it to other sources of 
information. We determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for 
the purposes of this review. DOD and service officials also provided 
specific examples of operational successes and emerging challenges. We 
discussed actions taken and processes used by DOD and service officials 
and the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System to 
address identified challenges. We also held discussions with Joint 
Staff officials to discuss their efforts to address joint UAS issues 
via the Tiger Team. 

The specific military activities that we visited and/or obtained 
written responses to questions from include the following: 

* Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics) and its Joint UAS Planning Task Force; Washington, D.C; 

* Headquarters, Department of the Army; Washington, D.C; 

* U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama; 

* U.S. Marine Corps, Systems Command, Quantico, Virginia; 

* U.S. Navy Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Air Station, Patuxent 
River, Maryland; 

* U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Directorate of Requirements, 
Langley Air Force Base, Virginia; 

* U.S Air Force, Air Force Material Command, Wright Patterson Air Force 
Base Dayton, Ohio; 

* U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Virginia; 

* U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida; 

* U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, 
Florida; 

* U.S. Joint Staff, Washington, D.C., and: 

* U.S Strategic Command, Omaha, Nebraska. 

We also obtained documents describing the mission and planned 
operations of the new Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center of 
Excellence and Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Overarching Integrated 
Process Team. 

To assess the soundness of DOD's approach to evaluating UAS operational 
performance, we interviewed DOD and service officials to discuss the 
criteria and processes used to assess performance. We also obtained and 
reviewed DOD and Army UAS Operations Assessments to identify issues and 
concerns regarding performance. Additionally, we held discussions with 
U.S. Strategic Command officials to obtain information on the status of 
their efforts to establish measures for assessing joint UAS 
performance. We also held discussions with service officials to 
determine the extent to which they are required to capture information 
on the use and performance of UAS in their existing lessons-learned 
systems. Finally, we obtained and reviewed DOD and service specific UAS 
or unmanned aerial vehicle roadmaps. 

We performed our work from July 2004 to October 2005 in accordance with 
generally accepted government auditing standards. 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

OFFICE OF THE UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: 
ACQUISITION TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS: 
3000 DEFENSE PENTAGON: 
WASHINGTON, DC 20301-3000: 

NOV 15 2005: 

Ms. Sharon L. Pickup: 
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

Dear Ms. Pickup: 

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) response to the GAO draft 
report, "UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS: DoD Needs to More Effectively 
Promote Interoperability and Improve Performance Assessments," dated 
October 11, 2005 (GAO Code 350550). 

The DoD concurs with the draft report's first, third, and fourth 
recommendations on communications interoperability 
standards/electromagnetic frequency reprogramming capabilities 
standards, interoperability standards, and all-weather capabilities. 
The DoD partially concurs with the second and fifth recommendations on 
payloads commonality and a performance measurement system, 
respectively. The rationale for the DoD's position is enclosed. 

The Department appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft 
report. For further questions concerning this report, please contact 
Dyke Weatherington, Deputy, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Planning Task 
Force at 703-695-6188. 

Sincerely, 

Signed for: 

Mark D. Schaeffer: 
Principal Deputy Defense Systems: 

Enclosure: As stated: 

GAO DRAFT REPORT-DATED OCTOBER 11, 2005 GAO CODE 350550/GAO-06-49: 

"UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS: DOD Needs to More Effectively Promote 
Interoperability and Improve Performance Assessments" 

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE COMMENTS TO THE RECOMMENDATIONS: 

RECOMMENDATION 1: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Service 
Secretaries, and other appropriate organizations to work together to 
develop or adjust communications interoperability standards and 
electromagnetic frequency reprogramming capabilities standards and 
ensure that they are applied to new or modified unmanned aircraft, 
sensor and communications payloads, ground stations, and related 
equipment. (p. 24/GAO Draft Report): 

DOD RESPONSE: Concur. DOD recognizes the utility of communications 
interoperability and the need to improve this capability. The 
Department has completed studies on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) 
frequency spectrum requirements and will direct the Services to operate 
in common frequency spectra, and we will specify a Common Data Link 
(CDL) baseline for all tactical and larger UAS in accordance with the 
revised CDL specification. The direction will require industry standard 
internet and Ethernet protocols as well as standard data link waveforms 
which will enhance interoperability within DOD networks and systems. 

RECOMMENDATION 2: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Service 
Secretaries, and other appropriate organizations to work together to 
develop sensor and other payload commonality standards where practical 
and enforce such standards when modifying existing unmanned aircraft or 
payloads and developing new ones. (p. 24/GAO Draft Report): 

DOD RESPONSE: Partial Concur. Unmanned aircraft payload procurement is 
dependent upon Service mission requirements, physical design 
limitations of the unmanned aircraft, and the rapid nature of 
technology evolution. The Department does not typically focus on 
"payload interchangeability" (e.g., the ability to swap payloads 
directly from one type of unmanned aircraft to another); however where 
appropriate, efficiencies and savings from developing, producing, and 
sustaining "common payloads" for integration into different unmanned 
aircraft types is encouraged. The Department can currently cite 
examples of the same payload being used on different unmanned aircraft, 
but within the same class. For example, the Army and Air Force Raven 
and the Marine Corps Dragon Eye small unmanned aircraft use common 
infrared (IR) and electro-optical (EO) payloads. The same multi-sensor 
targeting system EO/IR payload that is integrated on the Air Force 
Predator will be integrated on the Army Warrior unmanned aircraft. The 
Army Shadow and the Marine Corps Pioneer also share the same EO/IR 
payload. In these examples, "commonality" is achieved by the same 
sensor being integrated and operated on different unmanned aircraft 
types. Where practical, the Services work together to acquire common 
payloads. 

RECOMMENDATION 3: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Service 
Secretaries, and other appropriate organizations to work together to 
develop appropriately detailed UAS interoperability standards. (p. 
24/GAO Draft Report): 

DOD RESPONSE: Concur. The OSD UAS Roadmap 2005-2030, released in August 
2005, includes an Interoperability Standards Appendix which discusses 
the preferred framework and methodology for establishing 
interoperability and addresses specific standards to achieve unmanned 
aircraft interoperability. Standards for command and control, data 
links, still imagery, motion imagery, and ground moving target 
indicator formats are a few described in the annex. As identified in 
the response to the GAO's first recommendation above, the Department 
will direct the Services to operate in common frequency spectra and 
will specify a Common Data Link (CDL) baseline for all tactical and 
larger UAS in accordance with the revised CDL specification. Additional 
efforts within the Department that address unmanned aircraft 
interoperability standards include: Service ratification of NATO 
Standards Agreement (STANAG) 4586 and a recent memo from the 
Department's Chief Information Officer concerning Full Motion Video 
(FMV). STANAG 4586 addresses the standard interface for unmanned 
aircraft to achieve interoperability in the complex NATO combined/Joint 
Services operational environment. This past May, the Deputy Secretary 
of Defense directed the Department to investigate ways to improve 
integration of FMV and related sensor data generated by unmanned 
aircraft in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This resulted in 
direction on the use of standards to increase the integration of FMV 
across the Services. One example of rapid improvement in Joint Service 
interoperability is the evolution of remote video terminals for direct 
video reception from multiple UAS. Originally started by the Air Force 
as the Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver System (ROVER), the 
concept has been embraced by each of the Services. Currently, the third 
version of ROVER is now in use with Air Force, Army and Marine Corps, 
including 50 ROVER III ground terminals deployed with the Marines. 
These enable troops on the ground to receive information directly from 
airborne Predator, Shadow, Hunter, Dragon Eye, and Pioneer unmanned 
aircraft. The capabilities that UAS bring to the joint fight have been 
acknowledged at the most senior levels of the Department. The Vice 
Chairman, JCS has tasked the newly formed Joint UAS Material Review 
Board and Joint UAV Center of Excellence to provide recommendations for 
continuing to improve UAS interoperability. 

RECOMMENDATION 4: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Service 
Secretaries, and other appropriate organizations to work together to 
determine whether unmanned aircraft need all-weather flying 
capabilities, identify any performance degradation associated with all-
weather flying capabilities, and obtain all-weather capabilities where 
appropriate. (p. 25/GAO Draft Report): 

DOD RESPONSE: Concur. Combatant Commanders should expect UAS to support 
operations in diverse weather conditions. As UAS capabilities improve, 
the range of weather conditions these systems will need to operate in 
will also increase. The Services evaluate their weather capability 
requirements for each of their UAS, and develop and acquire these 
capabilities where appropriate. As the GAO report points out, some 
unmanned aircraft are more likely to be grounded by inclement weather 
than manned aircraft, due in part to their lighter weight. It is not 
cost effective, however, to expect all classes of unmanned aircraft to 
have an all-weather capability. All-weather capability is generally a 
function of aircraft size. Some unmanned aircraft will probably not be 
able to operate in all adverse weather conditions. For example, it is 
not reasonable to expect small, mini, micro unmanned aircraft to be 
able to operate in adverse conditions such as high winds. Where 
appropriate, the Services have implemented procedural and limited 
technological solutions to help mitigate the effects of weather on some 
unmanned aircraft. Unmanned aircraft, including the Global Hawk, 
Predator, Fire Scout and Warrior, have requirements to be capable of 
operating in some, but not all, adverse weather conditions. The 
Department equips its systems with those levels of capability 
determined to be most cost effective, while meeting combat capability 
and readiness. 

RECOMMENDATION 5: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command to ensure that the 
performance measurement system being developed by the command at a 
minimum: 

* measures how effectively UAS perform their missions by identifying 
quantifiable goals and comparing results with desired outcomes; 

* identifies the specific performance indicator information that needs 
to be collected to adequately assess joint performance; 

* develops indicators that assess communications and payload 
interoperability, and the extent to which electromagnetic spectrum 
congestion is undermining joint operations; 

* establishes baselines and apply the identified indicators against the 
baselines to gauge success in joint UAS performance; and: 

* develops a way to systematically collect identified performance 
information and routinely report it to organizations that develop and 
field UAS. (p. 25/GAO Draft Report): 

DOD RESPONSE: Partial Concur. The U.S. Strategic Command has drafted a 
Joint Functional Component Concept of Operations that includes metrics 
to gauge the force's ability to meet intelligence, surveillance, and 
reconnaissance (ISR) requirements. This will: 

* Develop criteria for assessing collection mechanisms to determine the 
effectiveness of synchronization, resolution of tasking and asset 
competition, and customer satisfaction. 

* In coordination with the Services, Intelligence Community, Combat 
Support Agencies, and Combatant Commanders (COCOM), develop, maintain, 
use, and evaluate measures of effectiveness and mission metrics to 
assess ISR mission objective accomplishment. Examine requirements, 
plans, asset capabilities, and mission results to support this process. 

* In conjunction with U.S. Joint Forces Command, develop and implement 
ISR modeling and simulation methodologies. The Joint Functional 
Component Command-ISR will participate in technical and operational 
testing of various DOD ISR proposals and platforms to determine their 
military utility. 

* Implement timely planning process changes to support COCOM 
requirements and, if necessary, modify ISR asset use to support new 
planning guidance. 

These ISR metrics are in development and will require Service 
participation to define the specific data and methodology which will 
result in useful information. At this time, there is not a detailed 
schedule for this process. The Department will provide updates to GAO 
as this activity matures. 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Sharon L. Pickup, (202) 512-9619: 

Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the person named above, Brian J. Lepore, Assistant 
Director; Harry E. Taylor, Jr; Patricia F. Albritton; Jeanett H. Reid; 
Elisha T. Matvay; Robert B. Brown; Cheryl A. Weissman; Ron La Due Lake; 
and Kenneth E. Patton also made major contributions to this report. 

[End of section] 

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(350550): 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Unmanned aircraft systems were previously known as unmanned aerial 
vehicles. In August 2005, the Department of Defense began using the new 
term. We have adopted the new term in this report and for clarity will 
use it when referring to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Planning Task 
Force, although it was actually known as the Joint Unmanned Aerial 
Vehicles Planning Task Force prior to August 2005. However, we will 
refer to publications by whichever term was used in their titles. 

[2] GAO, Force Structure: Improved Strategic Planning Can Enhance DOD's 
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Efforts, GAO-04-342 (Washington, D.C. Mar. 17, 
2004). 

[3] The Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System is a 
collaborative system that DOD uses to identify capability gaps and 
integrated solutions to resolve these gaps. 

[4] Joint missions involve UAS from more than one service, whereas 
service-specific missions involve UAS from only one service. 

[5] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles 
Roadmap 2002-2027 (Washington, D.C. December 2002). 

[6] DOD Directive 5000.1, The Defense Acquisition System, May 12, 2003 
and DOD Instruction 5000.2, Operation of the Defense Acquisition 
System, May 12, 2003. 

[7] In August 2005, DOD issued an updated version of the roadmap. See 
Office of the Secretary of Defense, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 
2005-2030 (Washington, D.C. August 2005). 

[8] This is the latest information available at the time of our review. 

[9] GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Steps Needed to Ensure Interoperability 
of Systems That Process Intelligence Data, GAO-03-329 (Washington, D.C. 
Mar. 31, 2003). 

[10] GAO, Joint Warfighting: Attacking Time Critical Targeting, GAO-02-
204R (Washington, D.C. Nov. 30, 2001). 

[11] GAO, Unmanned Vehicles: Assessment of DOD's Unmanned Aerial 
Vehicle Master Plan, GAO/NSIAD-89-41BR (Washington, D.C. Dec. 9, 1988). 

[12] The electromagnetic spectrum refers to the range of radio 
frequencies used in wireless communication. 

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