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Report to the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, 
Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

June 2007: 

Defense Acquisitions: 

An Analysis of the Special Operations Command's Management of Weapon 
System Programs: 

GAO-07-620: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-620, a report to the Subcommittee on Emerging 
Threats and Capabilities, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Special Operations Commandís (SOCOM) duties have greatly increased 
since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, Special Operations 
Forces are at work in Afghanistan and Iraq, and SOCOM has been assigned 
to lead U.S. efforts in the Global War on Terrorism. SOCOMís 
acquisitions budget has also greatly increased in this periodómore than 
doubling from $788 million in 2001 to approximately $1.91 billion in 
2006. In light of SOCOMís expanded duties, Congress requested that GAO 
review SOCOMís management of its acquisition programs. GAOís evaluation 
includes an assessment of: the types of acquisition programs SOCOM has 
undertaken since 2001 and whether the programs are consistent with its 
mission; the extent to which SOCOMís programs have progressed as 
planned; and the challenges SOCOM faces in managing its acquisition 
programs. 

What GAO Found: 

SOCOM has undertaken a diverse set of acquisition programs that are 
consistent with the commandís mission to provide equipment that 
addresses the unique needs of the Special Operations Forces. SOCOM has 
committed to spend about $6 billion on these programs. About 88 percent 
of the programs are relatively small, have short acquisition cycles, 
and use modified commercial off-the-shelf and nondevelopmental items or 
modify existing service equipment and assets. SOCOMís acquisition 
plansóas reflected in its current 5-year planócontinue to focus on 
relatively small-scale, short-cycle programs with modest development 
efforts. 

Overall, SOCOMís acquisition program performance has been mixed. About 
60 percent of the acquisition programs SOCOM has undertaken since 2001 
have progressed as planned, staying within the original cost and 
schedule estimates. Included in this grouping are programs that had 
cost increases because of the need to buy additional quantities of 
equipment for ongoing combat operations. The other 40 percent of 
SOCOMís acquisition programs have not progressed as planned and 
experienced modest to, in a small number of cases, significant cost 
increases and schedule delays because of a range of technical and 
programmatic issues. Although fewer in number, the programs that 
experienced problems comprise about 50 percent of acquisition funding 
because they tend to be the larger and costlier, platform-based 
programs that SOCOM is acquiring and those where SOCOM depends on one 
of the military departments for equipment and program management 
support. 

SOCOM faces management and workforce challenges to ensure its 
acquisition programs are consistently completed on time and within 
budget. Urgent requirements to support SOCOMís ongoing combat missions 
have and will continue to challenge SOCOMís ability to balance near- 
and long-term needs against available funding resources. In addition, 
SOCOM has difficulty tracking progress on programs where it has 
delegated management authority to one of the military departments and 
has not consistently applied a knowledge-based acquisition approach in 
executing programs, particularly the larger and more complex programs. 
Furthermore, SOCOM has encountered challenges ensuring it has the 
workforce size and composition to carry out its acquisition work. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense take steps to ensure SOCOM 
(1) establishes sound business cases when starting programs, 
particularly its more complex and department-managed programs; (2) has 
the workforce size and composition to match its acquisition workload; 
and (3) improves its acquisition management information system. DOD 
generally concurred with these recommendations. 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-620]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Paul Francis at (202) 512-
4841 or francisp@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Results in Brief: 

Background: 

SOCOM's Acquisition Programs Are Consistent with the Command's Mission: 

SOCOM'S Acquisition Program Performance Has Been Mixed: 

SOCOM Faces Management and Workforce Challenges in Its Acquisition 
Programs: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations for Executive Actions: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

Appendix II: SOCOM's Policies, Procedures, and Organizational Structure 
for Managing Acquisitions: 

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Related GAO Products: 

Tables: 

Table 1: SOCOM Component Commands End Strength: 

Table 2. SOCOM Acquisition Programs from 2001 to 2006 by Type and 
Funding: 

Table 3: Summary of SOCOM Programs by Acquisition Categories: 

Table 4: Estimated Ranges of Acquisition Program Costs: 

Table 5: Summary of Programs That Have and Have Not Been Progressing as 
Planned: 

Table 6: Summary of Acquisition Programs by Management Structure: 

Table 7: SOCOM's Civilian and Military Acquisition Workforce 
Composition and Training Levels: 

Table 8: SOCOM's Military Critical Acquisition Position (CAP) and DOD 
Certification Levels: 

Table 9: Summary of SOCOM Acquisition Programs' MDAs and Program 
Managers: 

Figures: 

Figure 1: Leaflet Delivery System: 

Figure 2: SOCOM's Family of Sniper Rifles: 

Figure 3: MH-47G: 

Figure 4: Example of a SOCOM-Modified Commercial Vehicle: 

Figure 5: MANPACK Advanced Concept Technology Development: 

Figure 6: SOCOM's Acquisition Programs Management Structure: 

Abbreviations: 

ACAT: Acquisition Category: 
AMP: Avionics Modernization Program: 
ASD(SO/ LIC): Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations and 
Low- Intensity Conflict: 
CAAP: Common Avionics Architecture for Penetration: 
CAP: Critical Acquisition Position: 
DAWIA: Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act: 
DOD: Department of Defense: 
GWOT: global war on terrorism: 
JCIDS: Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System: 
MDA: Milestone Decision Authority: 
MILDEP: military department: 
SEAL: Sea Air and Land: 
SOALIS: Special Operations Acquisition and Logistics Information System 
SOCOM: Special Operations Command: 
SOF: Special Operations Forces: 
UDA: Urgent Deployment Acquisitions: 
USD(AT&L): Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics: 

[End of section] 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

June 28, 2007: 

The Honorable Jack Reed: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Elizabeth Dole: 
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
United States Senate: 

The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987 to 
oversee the training, doctrine, and equipping of all U.S. Special 
Operations Forces (SOF). A key objective in establishing a unified 
command was to ensure that the Special Operations Forces of the 
military services would be equipped with the right weapon systems to 
carry out their unique missions. The SOCOM commander was granted the 
authority to independently develop, acquire, and field specialized 
equipment. This "special operations forces-peculiar" equipment may be 
newly created or standard equipment modified to meet SOF needs, but may 
not duplicate equipment provided from the other military 
services.[Footnote 1] 

In the past several years, SOCOM's acquisition program budget has 
increased significantly--from $788 million in 2001 to approximately 
$1.91 billion in 2006--as the role of the special operations forces in 
U.S. military operations has grown. For example, in 2003, the Secretary 
of Defense expanded SOCOM's duties to include leading the Department of 
Defense's (DOD) global war on terrorism (GWOT) operations. In keeping 
with this expanded role, DOD has begun to re-tool SOCOM from primarily 
a supporting command into a command responsible for planning and 
executing missions in GWOT. The change became more prominent with the 
fiscal year 2004 budget request, in which the President proposed a 47 
percent increase in SOCOM's funding. 

In light of SOCOM's expanded acquisition duties, Congress requested 
that GAO review SOCOM's management of its acquisition programs. To do 
so we addressed the following questions: 

* What types of acquisition programs has SOCOM undertaken since 2001 
and are they consistent with SOCOM's mission? 

* To what extent have SOCOM's acquisition programs progressed as 
planned, meeting their initial cost and schedule estimates? 

* What challenges if any does SOCOM face in managing its acquisition 
programs? 

SOCOM has encountered difficulties over the past several years with two 
of its flagship acquisition programs--the Advanced SEAL Delivery System 
(ASDS) and the CV-22 Advanced Vertical Lift Aircraft.[Footnote 2] The 
ASDS program is funded by SOCOM and managed by the Navy. The basic CV- 
22 platform is funded by the Air Force and produced under a Navy 
contract. SOCOM funds SOF-peculiar modifications to the CV-22. Both the 
ASDS and CV-22 programs have experienced significant cost, schedule, 
and performance problems because of requirements, technology, and 
design issues. Since both programs began before 2001, we did not 
include them in our analysis. However, we have reported separately on 
the programs, and those reports are listed at the end of this report. 

To assess SOCOM's management of its acquisition programs, we collected 
and reviewed information on all programs undertaken by the command 
between 2001 and 2006. We analyzed the information to determine what 
types of systems were being acquired and whether programs were meeting 
planned cost, schedule, and quantity objectives. To identify the 
challenges they face, we examined and analyzed pertinent documentation 
to include DOD, military departments, and SOCOM directives, 
instructions, policies, and operating procedures related to the Defense 
Acquisition System, and we interviewed key officials from SOCOM's 
Special Operations Acquisition and Logistics and Resources and 
Requirements organizations. We relied on previous GAO work as a 
framework for knowledge-based acquisition. 

We performed our review from July 2006 through May 2007 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

Since January 2001, SOCOM has undertaken a diverse set of acquisition 
programs that are consistent with the command's mission to provide 
equipment that addresses the unique needs of the special operations 
forces and for which there is no service-common requirement. SOCOM has 
committed about $6 billion to date on these programs. About 88 percent 
of the programs are Acquisition Category (ACAT) III level in 
size,[Footnote 3] have short acquisition cycles, and use commercial off-
the-shelf and nondevelopmental items or modify existing service 
equipment and assets. For example, SOCOM has modified commercially 
available trucks, information technology equipment, and weapon systems, 
as well as undertaken extensive modifications to service systems such 
as the Army's CH-47 helicopter. In the latter case, the Army funded the 
basic aircraft and Army-common improvements, and SOCOM funds the 
special operations modifications, which include extended range and 
enhanced defensive capabilities. Since 2001, SOCOM has undertaken only 
one ACAT I level program. It was to develop a common avionics package 
for its fleet of transport, tanker, and gunship aircraft. SOCOM's 
acquisition plans--as reflected in its current Future Year Defense 
Program[Footnote 4]--continue to focus on starting new programs that 
will be relatively small-scale, short-cycle, and involve modifications 
of existing systems. 

Overall, SOCOM's acquisition program performance has been mixed. About 
60 percent of the acquisition programs SOCOM has undertaken since 2001 
progressed as planned, staying within the original cost and schedule 
estimates. Included in this grouping are programs that had cost 
increases from buying additional quantities of equipment for ongoing 
combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other 40 percent of 
SOCOM's acquisition programs have not progressed as planned and 
experienced modest to, in a number of cases, significant cost increases 
and schedule delays because of a range of technical, programmatic, or 
funding issues. Although fewer in number, the programs that experienced 
problems make up about 50 percent of acquisition funding because these 
acquisitions tend to be the larger and costlier platform-based programs 
SOCOM is developing and programs where SOCOM is dependent on one of the 
military departments for the basic platform or equipment and/or for 
program management support. We could not compare SOCOM's acquisition 
performance with DOD's overall performance, mainly because aggregate 
data on DOD's smaller programs are not kept. 

SOCOM faces management and workforce challenges in ensuring its 
acquisition programs are more consistently completed on time and within 
budget. Urgent requirements to support SOCOM's role in Afghanistan and 
Iraq, and its new role as the lead in the global war on terrorism have 
and will continue to challenge SOCOM's ability to balance near-and long-
term needs against available funding resources. For example, according 
to SOCOM, in order to fund urgent deployment acquisitions in the past 5-
years, the command reallocated about $259 million from existing and 
planned programs. Additionally, SOCOM has difficulty tracking progress 
of programs for which it has delegated management authority to the 
military departments and addressing problems early on when they occur 
in these delegated programs. Also, while SOCOM employs elements of a 
knowledge-based acquisition approach, it is not consistently applied. 
For example, SOCOM has started some programs without ensuring that 
there was a solid match between requirements and the necessary 
resources, such as key technologies, to complete the development. In 
addition, a key database SOCOM uses for managing all of its acquisition 
programs has not been kept up to date, impeding program oversight. 
Furthermore, SOCOM plans to expand the size of its acquisition 
workforce by about 75 percent; however, in recent years SOCOM has 
encountered difficulties in being able to hire personnel in reasonable 
time frames and ensuring that its program managers are fully certified 
in accordance with DOD standards. 

To better position SOCOM to achieve the right acquisition program 
outcomes, we are making recommendations that the Secretary of Defense 
take steps to ensure that SOCOM: (1) establishes sound business cases 
when starting programs, particularly its more complex and military 
department-managed acquisition programs, and applies the elements of a 
knowledge-based acquisition strategy; (2) has the workforce size and 
composition to match its acquisition workload; and (3) improves the 
accuracy, timeliness, and usefulness of its acquisition management 
information system. DOD partially concurred with the first 
recommendation and fully concurred with the other two recommendations. 
With respect to the first recommendation, DOD concurred with applying 
elements of a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, but only after it 
is defined by DOD within the 5000 Series of documents. This should not 
result in a delay in action on DOD's part as DOD's acquisition policy 
already includes the key elements of a knowledge-based acquisition 
approach particularly regarding technology, design, and production. It 
is important that SOCOM follow this policy because we have found that 
programs experience cost, schedule, and performance problems when they 
proceed into system development and initial manufacturing with lower 
levels of knowledge than specified in DOD's acquisition policy. 

Background: 

SOCOM is one of ten combatant commands[Footnote 5] directly responsible 
to the Secretary of Defense. The command was established by the 
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1987,[Footnote 6] 
and codified in 10 USC Section 167. As a functional command, SOCOM's 
primary responsibility is to prepare the special operations forces 
(SOF) to carry out assigned missions. When appropriate, SOCOM may be 
called upon to conduct special operations activities unilaterally or 
provide support to other U.S. military forces. In 2003, the Secretary 
of Defense expanded SOCOM's role to include leading the DOD's GWOT 
operations. In this central role, SOCOM plans, directs, and executes 
special operations in the conduct of the GWOT in order to disrupt and 
destroy terrorist networks that threaten the United States, its 
citizens, and its interests worldwide. SOCOM also organizes, trains, 
and equips SOF warriors provided to the geographic combatant commanders 
and to the American ambassadors and their country teams. In keeping 
with this expanded role, DOD has begun to re-tool SOCOM from primarily 
a supporting command into a command responsible for planning, 
synchronizing, and executing missions in the GWOT. SOCOM is 
headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and has four 
component commands, and one sub-unified command located at different 
military bases. The Marine Corps Special Operations Command joined 
SOCOM on February 24, 2006. Table 1 shows the end strength of each of 
the component commands. 

Table 1: SOCOM Component Commands End Strength: 

Component command: Joint Special Operations Command (Sub-unified 
Command); 
Location: Pope Air Force Base and Ft. Bragg, N.C; 
End strength: 1,250. 

Component command: Army Special Forces Command; 
Location: Ft. Bragg, N.C; 
End strength: 22,386. 

Component command: Naval Special Warfare Command; 
Location: Coronado, Calif; 
End strength: 7,507. 

Component command: Air Force Special Operations Command; 
Location: Hurlburt Field, Fla; 
End strength: 12,801. 

Component command: Marine Corps Special Operations Command; 
Location: Camp Lejeune, N.C; 
End strength: 1,414. 

Component command: Total; 
Location: [Empty]; 
End strength: 45,358. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[End of table] 

Congress created SOCOM to improve the ability of the United States to 
conduct special operations. Congress vested the command with the 
responsibility and the authority for the development and acquisition of 
SOF-peculiar equipment, the authority to exercise the functions of the 
head of agency, and the authority to execute its own budget. SOF- 
peculiar equipment is defined as equipment, materials, supplies, and 
services required for SOF activities for which there is no service- 
common requirement. According to SOCOM, these are limited to items and 
services initially designed for, or used by, SOF until adopted for 
service-common use by other DOD forces; modifications approved for 
application to standard items and services used by other DOD forces; 
and items and services critical for the immediate accomplishment of a 
SOF activity. 

To fund the acquisition of SOF-peculiar equipment, SOCOM was also given 
responsibility for supervising a separate Major Force Program-11 budget 
account.[Footnote 7] Congress determined that a dedicated funding 
mechanism was necessary because, in the past, the military departments 
had tended to give lower priority to SOF's equipment needs than to 
their own needs. For fiscal year 2006, SOCOM's total budget was $7.2 
billion, of which $1.9 billion was for development-and-acquisition- 
related purposes. 

In acquiring SOF equipment, SOCOM falls under the same DOD acquisition 
policies and guidelines and workforce requirements that apply to the 
military departments and other defense agencies. The military 
departments and SOCOM are governed by DOD's 5000 Series for the Defense 
Acquisition System.[Footnote 8] Similarly, each military department, 
along with SOCOM, has its own policies and procedures to implement 
higher level directives and guide the management of acquisition 
activities within the military departments or command. 

SOCOM's acquisition workforce training and tenure is governed by the 
Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA), enacted in 
1990.[Footnote 9] The Act specifically created a formal acquisition 
corps and defined educational, experience, and tenure criteria needed 
for key positions, including program managers, contracting officers, 
and other personnel involved in the acquisition process. According to 
DOD, members of the acquisition corps may earn three progressive 
certification levels--basic (Level I), intermediate (Level II), and 
advanced (Level III).[Footnote 10] Each certification level is 
comprised of a combination of education, experience, and training 
elements. Certification recognizes the level to which a member of the 
acquisition workforce has achieved functional and core acquisition 
competencies required by a specific career field. Members of SOCOM's 
acquisition workforce are required to meet the same training and 
certification requirements as those in the military departments. 

SOCOM's approach to acquisition management also has some distinctive 
features. The command is unique in DOD in that it plans, funds, 
acquires, and sustains weapon systems all under one roof. Specifically, 
all the key entities involved in the acquisition life-cycle process-- 
requirements developers, comptroller, contracting personnel, logistics 
planners, and program offices--are colocated. SOCOM also uses a 
centralized approach to assess and prioritize requirements and select 
programs based on competing needs and available resources. SOCOM's 
customers--the SOF warriors--are directly involved in determining what 
weapon systems are pursued. In addition, SOCOM can arrange to transfer 
program management and milestone decision authority[Footnote 11] 
responsibilities to one of the military departments to execute the 
program on behalf of SOCOM. SOCOM has done this with many of its 
programs that involve some modification of military department-provided 
equipment or in cases where the military departments may have greater 
technical and program management expertise. Further description of how 
SOCOM is structured to manage its acquisitions is provided in appendix 
II. 

SOCOM's Acquisition Programs Are Consistent with the Command's Mission: 

SOCOM has undertaken a diverse set of acquisition programs since 
January 2001 that are consistent with the command's mission to address 
unique SOF needs and those needs for which there are no service-common 
requirement. SOCOM has committed about $6 billion to date on these 
programs. The vast majority of SOCOM's acquisition programs are ACAT 
III level in size, have short acquisition cycles, and use modified 
commercial off-the-shelf and nondevelopmental items or modify existing 
service equipment and assets. In acquiring systems, SOCOM has 
emphasized the need for "80 percent" solutions that provide improved 
capabilities incrementally to the warfighter in reasonable time frames, 
rather than major development efforts that require advanced 
technologies and years of research and development. Both the ASDS and 
CV-22 programs were started in the 1990s. Since 2001, SOCOM has 
undertaken only one ACAT I level program. It was to develop a common 
avionics package for its fleet of transport, tanker, and gunship 
aircraft. SOCOM's acquisition plans for the future--as reflected in its 
current Future Year Defense Program--continue to maintain its SOF- 
peculiar focus. 

Most of SOCOM's Acquisition Programs Are Small: 

SOCOM initiated 86 acquisition programs from 2001 to 2006 to meet SOF- 
peculiar requirements, which can be grouped into five major areas: 
rotary wing, fixed wing, maritime systems, information and intelligence 
systems, and special operations forces warrior equipment (e.g., 
vehicles and weapons).[Footnote 12] Table 2 shows the number and 
funding for these programs by each major grouping. 

Table 2: SOCOM Acquisition Programs from 2001 to 2006 by Type and 
Funding: 

Program types: Rotary wing; 
Number of programs: 10; 
Funding ($M): $2,019. 

Program types: Fixed wing; 
Number of programs: 29; 
Funding ($M): 1,670. 

Program types: Maritime systems; 
Number of programs: 5; 
Funding ($M): 30. 

Program types: Information and intelligence systems; 
Number of programs: 15; 
Funding ($M): 393. 

Program types: Special Operations Warrior; 
Number of programs: 27; 
Funding ($M): 885. 

Program types: Total; 
Number of programs: 86; 
Funding ($M): $4997[A]. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[A] This amount excludes about $254 million in supplemental funding. 

[End of table] 

As table 3 shows, 76 of SOCOM's 86 acquisition programs are ACAT III 
level in size, and the majority of these programs use nondevelopmental 
and commercial off-the-shelf items to meet SOF-peculiar needs. A 
further breakdown of these programs, depicted in table 4, indicates 
that most cost less than $25 million. The small number of larger, ACAT 
I and II level programs are fixed and rotary wing systems, costing $200 
million or more. These larger programs involve modifications to 
existing platform systems and more substantial technology development 
efforts. The one ACAT I level program SOCOM initiated since 2001--the 
Common Avionics Architecture for Penetration (CAAP) program--is 
intended to provide specialized capabilities for MC-130H and AC-130H/U 
transport, tanker, and gunship aircraft, including low probability of 
detection and improved terrain following and avoidance radar. 

Table 3: Summary of SOCOM Programs by Acquisition Categories: 

Acquisition categories: I; 
Number of programs: 1; 
Program types: Fixed wing. 

Acquisition categories: II; 
Number of programs: 6; 
Program types: Fixed wing and Rotary wing. 

Acquisition categories: III; 
Number of programs: 76; 
Program types: Fixed wing, Rotary wing, Information & Intelligence 
systems, Maritime systems, and Special Operations Forces Warrior. 

Acquisition categories: N/A[A]; 
Number of programs: 3; 
Program types: Information & Intelligence systems. 

Acquisition categories: Total; 
Number of programs: 86; 
Program types: [Empty]. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[A] According to SOCOM, these programs do not meet the criteria to be 
designated as a regular acquisition category. 

[End of table] 

Table 4: Estimated Ranges of Acquisition Program Costs: 

Number acquisition programs: 6; 
Cost ranges ($M): Greater than $200. 

Number acquisition programs: 7; 
Cost ranges ($M): $101 to $200. 

Number acquisition programs: 11; 
Cost ranges ($M): $51 to $100. 

Number acquisition programs: 14; 
Cost ranges ($M): $25 to $50. 

Number acquisition programs: 48; 
Cost ranges ($M): Less than $25. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[End of table] 

Several key examples of the types of programs SOCOM has undertaken are 
described below. 

Leaflet Delivery System: 

The leaflet delivery system is an ACAT III program that was fielded by 
SOCOM at a cost of about $20 million. The system uses a fully reusable, 
commercial-off-the-shelf, unmanned aerial vehicle as a component of the 
autonomously guided parafoil system it has developed. The delivery 
system is capable of delivering leaflets or psychological operations 
materials to target audiences in peacetime and in war. It took SOCOM 
about 8 months to field this capability to the SOF warrior. It can be 
ground launched from the back of a high-mobility multiwheeled vehicle 
and air launched from a C-130, C-141, or C-17 cargo aircraft. Figure 1 
below shows the leaflet delivery system. 

Figure 1: Leaflet Delivery System: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: SOCOM. 

[End of figure] 

Commercially Designed Sniper Weapons: 

SOCOM's current family of sniper rifles was acquired as 
nondevelopmental and commercial off-the-shelf items, which according to 
the program office, enables rapid acquisition of an initial capability 
as well as efficient spiral development of enhanced capabilities as 
mission requirements direct. SOCOM currently has four rifles in its 
family of sniper rifles, the MK 11--7.62mm Sniper Support Rifle, the MK 
12--5.56mm Special Purpose Rifle, the MK 13--.300 Winchester Magnum, 
and the MK 15--.50 caliber. Each will only fire one type of ammunition 
and with varying effective ranges. Two of the sniper rifles, MK 11 and 
MK 12, will be replaced by the Sniper Support Rifle variant of the SOF 
Combat Assault Rifle, which is an ACAT III program consisting of a 
modified commercial off-the-shelf system, and is estimated to cost 
about $50 million. The new sniper rifle is a modular design, and the 
caliber of the rifle can be changed by replacing the barrel, bolt, and 
trigger modules. The life expectancy of the SOCOM rifles shown in 
figure 2 is about 5 years. Therefore, according to the SOF Warrior 
program office, SOF plans a phased replacement of like or enhanced 
capability every 5 years. 

Figure 2: SOCOM's Family of Sniper Rifles: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: SOCOM. 

[End of figure] 

Modification to the Army's Service-Common CH-47 Helicopter: 

SOCOM has an ACAT II program underway, estimated to cost about $200 
million, which modifies the Army's service-common CH-47 helicopter to 
meet its SOF-peculiar requirements. Several features on the aircraft 
are SOCOM-peculiar such as the long aerial refueling probe on the front 
of the aircraft, the standardized extended range fuel tank, and the 
common aviation architecture systems cockpit. The CH-47 helicopter, 
when modified by SOCOM, becomes a MH-47G helicopter that provides SOCOM 
with a heavy assault helicopter with the latest avionics, sensors, 
aircraft survivability features, and weapons systems. All MH-47 
helicopters in SOCOM's inventory--which includes the MH-47D and the MH- 
47E aircraft--will be converted to the MH-47G configuration over time. 
According to SOCOM, at least two of the SOF-peculiar features on the MH-
47G helicopter were adopted by the Army and are now service-common 
features. SOCOM developed standardized engines and an enhanced air 
transportation kit that were designed to meet a SOF-peculiar 
requirement. However, once they operational, the Army decided it could 
use the capability as well and adopted it. Figure 3 shows some of the 
basic modifications to the CH-47 that were provided by the Army and 
those that were provided by SOCOM. 

Figure 3: MH-47G: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: SOCOM. 

[End of figure] 

Some SOCOM Programs Are Targeted to Urgent Needs: 

In addition to regular acquisition programs, SOCOM has acquired various 
equipment and material to meet urgent needs related to planned and 
ongoing military operations. According to SOCOM officials, urgent needs 
qualify for consideration if they meet one of two criteria: a potential 
mission failure or loss of life. Because of the urgency of these needs, 
SOCOM's focus is on acquiring readily available equipment in short time 
frames. Since 2001, SOCOM has addressed about 50 urgent mission needs 
and fielded equipment to its deployed SOF warriors at cost of about 
$339 million. For example, to address an urgent operational need to 
move personnel and materiel more effectively in Afghanistan and Iraq 
without attracting local attention or projecting an overt military 
presence, SOCOM acquired and modified about 150 commercial off-the- 
shelf 4x4 trucks, sedans, and sport utility vehicles and fielded them 
in about 4 weeks. Figure 4 below shows an example of a modified 
commercial truck used by SOCOM. 

Figure 4: Example of a SOCOM-Modified Commercial Vehicle: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: SOCOM. 

[End of figure] 

According to SOCOM officials, urgent needs are not to be used as a 
means of circumventing or accelerating the normal program approval or 
funding processes. To that end, equipment acquired via the urgent needs 
process is fielded and sustained only for the duration of the military 
operation. The sponsoring Component Commander is responsible for 
determining post-operation disposition of any equipment acquired as a 
result of an urgent needs request. 

SOCOM has also fielded critical combat-related technologies through 
DOD's Advanced Concept Technology Development program. DOD initiated 
the program in 1994 to help get new technologies that meet critical 
military needs into the hands of users faster and at less cost than the 
traditional acquisition process.[Footnote 13] Over the past 5 years, 
SOCOM has fielded seven Advanced Concept Technology Development 
programs at a cost of about $385 million. For example, as shown in the 
figure 5, SOCOM fielded the MANPACK radio threat detector which was an 
Advanced Concept program. The MANPACK is designed to provide the basic 
capability to identify and locate threat and friendly emitters, locate 
unknown emitters, and provide situational awareness to the SOF operator 
with little or no interaction from the user. 

Figure 5: MANPACK Advanced Concept Technology Development: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: SOCOM. 

[End of figure] 

SOCOM's acquisition plan for the future--as reflected in its current 
Future Year Defense Program--continues to maintain a focus on providing 
SOF-peculiar equipment. The acquisition programs SOCOM plans to start 
over the fiscal year 2007 to 2011 time frame are similar to the 
programs that SOCOM is currently acquiring. There are 13 acquisition 
programs remaining in SOCOM's fiscal year 2007 to 2011 plan, and all 
are at the ACAT III level. These programs continue to be small scale, 
low cost, and will employ modified commercial-off-the-shelf and 
nondevelopmental items. For example, the SOF Combat Assault sniper 
rifle was among the remaining 2007 to 2011 programs and is SOF-peculiar 
and a nondevelopmental item. 

SOCOM'S Acquisition Program Performance Has Been Mixed: 

Fifty-one (about 60 percent) of the 86 acquisition programs SOCOM has 
undertaken since 2001 have progressed as planned, either staying within 
original cost and schedule estimates or experiencing cost increases 
unrelated to progress, such as for adding quantities to support ongoing 
combat operations . The other 35 (40 percent) of SOCOM's 86 programs 
have experienced or are likely to experience modest to, in a number of 
cases, significant cost increases and schedule delays due to a range of 
technical, programmatic, or funding issues. Although fewer in number, 
these programs make up about 50 percent of SOCOM's total funding for 
its acquisition programs. Ten of the programs have an estimated 
schedule slip of at least one year, and several programs were canceled 
because of a need to fund higher priorities or because of technical 
issues encountered in developing the weapon system. The programs that 
have not progressed as planned tend to be the larger, more complex 
platform-based programs SOCOM is developing and programs where SOCOM is 
dependent on the military departments for the basic platform or for 
equipment and/or other resources, such as program management support. 
Programs that are smaller, with less development risk, have better 
results. 

As shown in table 5, there are some differences in the type of programs 
that are and are not progressing as planned, but the overall picture is 
mixed. 

Table 5: Summary of Programs That Have and Have Not Been Progressing as 
Planned: 

Type programs: Fixed wing; 
Progressing as planned: Number of programs: 15; 
Progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): $352.2; 
Not progressing as planned: Number of programs: 14; 
Not progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): $1,317.5. 

Type programs: Information and intelligence; 
Progressing as planned: Number of programs: 10; 
Progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 65.6; 
Not progressing as planned: Number of programs: 5; 
Not progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 327.8. 

Type programs: Maritime systems; 
Progressing as planned: Number of programs: 4; 
Progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 22.8; 
Not progressing as planned: Number of programs: 1; 
Not progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 7.0. 

Type programs: Rotary wing; 
Progressing as planned: Number of programs: 6; 
Progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 1,492.5; 
Not progressing as planned: Number of programs: 4; 
Not progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 526.6. 

Type programs: SOF Warrior; 
Progressing as planned: Number of programs: 16; 
Progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 543.3; 
Not progressing as planned: Number of programs: 11; 
Not progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): 341.9. 

Type programs: Total; 
Progressing as planned: Number of programs: 51; 
Progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): $2,476.5; 
Not progressing as planned: Number of programs: 35; 
Not progressing as planned: Dollar value (millions): $2,520.7. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[End of table] 

In terms of the number of programs, fixed wing and SOF warrior systems 
comprise a large proportion (25 out of 35) of those that are not 
meeting original cost and schedule estimates. However, when viewed by 
the amount of funding allocated to these programs, fixed and rotary 
wing systems make up the majority ($1,844 million out of $2,521 
million) that are not progressing as planned. We were not able to put 
these results in context, that is, to compare them with DOD as a whole 
to determine whether SOCOM's performance was typical or atypical. This 
is primarily because of the fact that DOD does not keep aggregate 
performance data on ACAT III programs--which comprise most of SOCOM's 
acquisition portfolio. 

Many of the fixed and rotary wing programs are the larger programs in 
SOCOM's portfolio, involving modifications to existing military- 
service or special-operations platform systems. As such, these programs 
require more systems engineering and design/integration efforts than 
other smaller programs being acquired by SOCOM. For example, the 
estimated costs for SOCOM's fixed-wing AC-130U 30-millimeter gun- 
modification program has increased 92 percent because of technical and 
design issues, and the program has been deferred until fiscal year 2008 
when additional funding may be available. Likewise, the AC-130U+4 
program, which is intended to modify the C-130 aircraft into a side- 
firing gunship, has been delayed by 7 months because of technical 
issues with the aircraft 's configuration and design. 

Many of SOCOM programs that are not progressing as planned are also 
programs in which the military departments are involved in a management 
capacity. As shown in table 6, 22 of the 35 programs that have not 
stayed within original cost and schedule estimates have one of the 
military departments in a management role--either as the milestone 
decision authority or program manager or both. All of the fixed and 
rotary wing programs that are not progressing as planned are in this 
category. In contrast, however, SOCOM does manage its five largest 
information and intelligence system programs, but they are not 
progressing as planned. 

Table 6: Summary of Acquisition Programs by Management Structure: 

Management structure: SOCOM managed programs; 
Progressing as planned: No. of programs: 26; 
Progressing as planned: Cost (in millions): $632.3; 
Not progressing as planned: No. of programs: 13; 
Not progressing as planned: Cost (in millions): $626.0. 

Management structure: MILDEP role in managing programs; 
Progressing as planned: No. of programs: 25; 
Progressing as planned: Cost (in millions): 1844.2; 
Not progressing as planned: No. of programs: 22; 
Not progressing as planned: Cost (in millions): 1895.0. 

Management structure: Total; 
Progressing as planned: No. of programs: 51; 
Progressing as planned: Cost (in millions): $2476.5; 
Not progressing as planned: No. of programs: 35; 
Not progressing as planned: Cost (in millions): $2521.0. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[End of table] 

In assessing how programs have progressed, we identified a small number 
of programs (8 out of 86) that SOCOM canceled or deferred because of a 
need to fund higher priorities or because of technical issues 
encountered during development. Most of these programs were canceled 
early before significant funding and time were committed. In the other 
few programs, however, we found significant time and effort was 
invested before they were cancelled. For example, SOCOM's High Power 
Fiber Optic Towed Decoy program, which was being developed to provide a 
fiber optic towed decoy capability to SOCOM's fleet of AC and MC-130 
aircraft, was canceled after spending about $85 million because of 
higher funding priorities. SOCOM's one ACAT 1 program, the Common 
Avionics Architecture for Penetration (CAAP) program was also 
subsequently terminated. The CAAP program, which was managed by the 
U.S. Air Force, was being designed to provide SOF-peculiar avionics 
capability to the U.S. Air Force's Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) 
on the MC-130 H and AC-130H/U aircraft. It was designed to give SOF- 
peculiar capabilities to the aircraft, including enhanced abilities to 
follow terrain and avoid detection while using Air Force-provided 
radar. However, SOCOM terminated all funding for the CAAP program in 
its fiscal years 2008 to 2013 program objective memorandum. SOCOM 
determined that it was cost prohibitive to continue the program after 
the Air Force ran into problems with the AMP program and determined 
that the cost to complete development of both AMP and CAAP would more 
than double the original estimates. 

SOCOM Faces Management and Workforce Challenges in Its Acquisition 
Programs: 

SOCOM faces management and workforce challenges in ensuring its 
acquisition programs are completed on time and within budget. Urgent 
requirements arising from SOCOM's role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its 
new role in the GWOT have and will continue to challenge SOCOM's 
ability to balance near-and long-term needs against available funding 
resources. For example, in order to fund almost 50 urgent deployment 
acquisitions in the past 5 years, SOCOM has had to reallocate $259 
million from existing and planned acquisition programs. Additionally, 
even though SOCOM employs elements of a knowledge-based acquisition 
approach, it is not consistently applied, and some programs have 
started without a good match between requirements and resources. SOCOM 
also has difficulty tracking progress on programs for which it has 
delegated management authority to the military departments and 
addressing problems earlier in these programs. Moreover, a key SOCOM 
tool for managing its acquisition programs has not been consistently 
maintained with up-to-date information. In addition, SOCOM has 
encountered workforce challenges such as being able to hire civilian 
personnel in reasonable time frames and ensuring that its military 
personnel are fully compliant with DOD standards. 

SOCOM Management Challenges: 

Addressing high-priority urgent needs from the field will continue to 
challenge SOCOM's ability to complete existing programs on time and 
within budget. In its roles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and GWOT, SOCOM will 
continue to fulfill urgent needs with acquisition programs. But because 
of the short time frames involved, funding for these programs is not 
built into the budget. In the past 5 years, SOCOM reallocated about 
$259 million from budgeted programs to fund almost 50 urgent deployment 
acquisitions. In fiscal years 2006 and 2007, SOCOM did begin to receive 
money from Congress in its budget--about $80 million and $22 million 
respectively--to help defray some of the costs of its urgent deployment 
acquisition programs. According to SOCOM's Acquisition Executive, 
urgent deployment acquisitions are expected to continue over the next 
several years, and the command anticipates requesting about $20 to $25 
million each year from 2008 to 2013 to help pay for these needs. 
Although funding shifts are disruptive in SOCOM, as they are in the 
military departments, SOCOM's strategic planning structure for 
assessing and selecting programs is well-suited for making the trade- 
offs among priorities needed to address urgent needs. 

SOCOM also has difficulty tracking progress and addressing problems 
early in programs where it has delegated management authority to the 
military departments. Having access to all the military departments 
provides SOCOM the means to leverage resources and expertise that may 
not reside at SOCOM, such as program management, engineering and 
technical services, testing and evaluation support, and logistical 
support. However, in some cases when SOCOM has relied on the military 
departments for technical or basic capabilities, its programs have been 
adversely affected when the department-provided capabilities are 
delayed. When delays occur, there tends to be a cascading effect on 
SOCOM programs. For example, initial schedule delays in the U.S. Air 
Force's AMP for C-130 aircraft resulted in delays in SOCOM's ability to 
acquire the CAAP program on the C-130 aircraft. The AMP program was to 
provide a basic cockpit configuration and avionics capability for 
different C-130 aircraft, and SOCOM's CAAP capability would provide 
additional avionics capabilities for SOF missions. The AMP program 
encountered technical and integration problems during installation 
trials and is now being restructured. Because of delays and cost growth 
with AMP, cost to complete the CAAP program increased significantly 
leading to SOCOM's decision to cancel the CAAP program and defer this 
capability. 

According to SOCOM's acquisition executive, although SOCOM has over- 
arching memorandums of agreement establishing program management 
arrangements with each of the military departments, not all of the 
agreements are signed at the appropriate levels of authority within the 
military departments. While the agreement with the Army is signed by 
the Secretary of the Army, the Air Force and Navy agreements are signed 
by the chiefs of staff. This is a challenge to SOCOM because 
acquisition and budget authority resides with the military department 
secretary and not with the chief of staff. When problems occur in 
programs managed by the Air Force or Navy, SOCOM may have less standing 
to make a case that they are not living up to the memorandums of 
agreement, than the command would with the Army. SOCOM also 
acknowledges that memorandums of agreement for specific programs-- 
particularly the larger, more complex programs SOCOM delegates to the 
military departments--have not been detailed enough in terms of laying 
out the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for executing 
programs, nor detailed enough in laying out how SOCOM will be able to 
track progress and participate in regular program reviews with the 
military departments. While written agreements by themselves may not 
result in better SOCOM-military department programs, they are important 
in that they provide a foundation for effective program management. 
SOCOM is currently taking steps to update the written agreements with 
the military departments and also examining whether some of its 
programs would be better under SOCOM management. 

SOCOM employs elements of a knowledge-based acquisition approach, but 
it is not consistently applied. We have frequently reported on the need 
to develop a solid, executable business case before committing 
resources to a new product development effort. A business case should 
be based on DOD's acquisition policy and lessons learned from leading 
commercial firms and other successful DOD programs. Our work has shown 
that the business case in its simplest form demonstrates evidence that 
(1) the warfighter's needs are valid and that they can best be met with 
the chosen concept, and (2) the chosen concept can be developed and 
produced within existing resources--that is: proven technologies, 
design knowledge, adequate funding, and adequate time to deliver the 
product when it is needed. We found that although SOCOM has a 
systematic strategic planning process to prioritize and select 
programs, it has started some programs, particularly the larger and 
more complex programs, without ensuring that there was a solid match 
between the requirements and resources to complete the development. For 
example, SOCOM terminated the Common Avionics Architecture for 
Penetration Program because of excessive cost growth resulting from 
technical problems and schedule delays with the Air Force's Avionics 
Modernization Program. While SOCOM attributes the cause of program 
problems in part to poor contractor performance, it also acknowledges 
that technology challenges and development costs were significantly 
underestimated when the program started. In addition, the Navy-managed 
Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), which has been one of SOCOM's 
largest investments since ASDS started in the mid-90s, encountered 
significant problems because the capabilities required for the delivery 
system outstripped the developer's resources in terms of technical 
knowledge, time, and money. Although the first boat was accepted for 
operational use in 2003, it did not meet technical or performance 
requirements. Currently, reliability issues with the boat are being 
examined, and an assessment of alternate material solutions are 
underway to determine how best to address the remaining operational 
requirements. 

SOCOM's tool for managing its acquisition programs--called the Special 
Operations Acquisition and Logistics Information System (SOALIS)-- 
lacks sufficient oversight and maintenance. At the time of our review, 
we found that information for most programs was out of date and that 
some programs had not been updated in years, even though the program 
executive officers and program directors are required to keep SOALIS 
accurate and up to date on at least a monthly basis. Further, we found 
no enforcement mechanism to ensure oversight of this important 
management tool. According to SOCOM's Standard Operating Procedures 
Directive, SOALIS is intended to give SOCOM decision makers and 
stakeholders essential information on the status and progress of 
ongoing acquisition efforts. Although regular progress reviews take 
place on individual programs, the lack of up-to-date information on all 
programs can impede SOCOM's ability to conduct effective oversight. 

SOCOM Workforce Challenges: 

SOCOM's acquisition workforce has remained relatively small for many 
years, but plans are underway to increase the size of the acquisition 
workforce about 75 percent by the end of 2008. This is being done to 
address the growth in acquisitions work that has taken place over the 
past several years as well as expected future growth in acquisitions 
with SOCOM's expanded role in the GWOT. Since 2001, SOCOM's workforce 
has remained fairly stable, growing by only 10 positions to a total of 
185 government--civilian and military--acquisition employees. SOCOM 
plans to expand its governmental acquisition workforce to about 300 
employees. Currently, the governmental workforce is heavily 
supplemented by contractors. Specifically, contractors comprise about 
two-thirds of the overall workforce supporting SOCOM's acquisition 
activities. The contractor support includes logistics, training, 
education, and testing support, and engineering and technical services. 
In order to prepare for the upcoming workforce expansion, SOCOM is 
conducting a manpower study. The study, which is scheduled to be 
completed in fiscal year 2008, is designed to assess the composition of 
the workforce and determine workloads associated with each SOCOM 
position--including all acquisition positions--to aid SOCOM officials 
in their placement of newly hired government employees. Also, to lower 
costs, SOCOM's acquisition executive anticipates a reduced reliance on 
contractors in conjunction with the expansion of the governmental 
acquisition workforce. How much of a reduction will be based on the 
outcome of the ongoing manpower study and resource considerations. 

As can be seen in table 7, the majority of SOCOM's current civilian 
acquisition workforce has attained DOD's level III certification. 

Table 7: SOCOM's Civilian and Military Acquisition Workforce 
Composition and Training Levels: 

Certification levels: Civilian workforce; 
Level I: 2; 
Level II: 14; 
Level III: 76; 
None: 0; 
Vacancies: 10; 
Total positions: 102. 

Certification levels: Military workforce; 
Level I: 1; 
Level II: 11; 
Level III: 19; 
None: 6; 
Vacancies: 6; 
Total positions: 43. 

Certification levels: Total; 
Level I: 3; 
Level II: 25; 
Level III: 95; 
None: 6; 
Vacancies: 16; 
Total positions: 145. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[End of table] 

Additionally, SOCOM's senior level civilian acquisition workforce at 
the GS-14, GS-15, and senior executive service levels, along with those 
assigned to Critical Acquisition Positions[Footnote 14] that require 
level III certification, have all earned level III certification. We 
found that the vacancy rate for civilian acquisition positions is about 
10 percent and that the bulk of the unfilled positions are at the GS-14 
and GS-15 levels, leaving vacancies in some key management positions. 
The command has encountered challenges in filling vacancies in the 
upper-level, civilian-acquisition-workforce positions. According to 
SOCOM's acquisition executive, the difficulty in hiring qualified 
personnel to fill these critical vacancies is due, in part, to the 
lengthy process required to hire qualified acquisition personnel. SOCOM 
uses the Air Force personnel system as its executive hiring agency. 
However, this process has taken as long as 240 days to hire at the 
upper levels. 

SOCOM's military acquisition workforce certification rated at level III 
is not as high as its civilian counterparts. This is particularly true 
for critical acquisition positions, which usually involve significant 
supervisory or management responsibilities (e.g., program manager). As 
table 8 shows, about 40 percent of these positions are held by officers 
who do not meet the level III certification standards required by DOD. 

Table 8: SOCOM's Military Critical Acquisition Position (CAP) and DOD 
Certification Levels: 

Program manager certification levels: Level III; 
Number of officers in CAPs: 13. 

Program manager certification levels: Level II; 
Number of officers in CAPs: 6. 

Program manager certification levels: Level I; 
Number of officers in CAPs: 1. 

Program manager certification levels: No certification; 
Number of officers in CAPs: 2. 

Source: GAO analysis of SOCOM data. 

[End of table] 

While DOD guidelines[Footnote 15] allow acquisition officers to attain 
the appropriate certification up to 24 months after being assigned to a 
critical position, we found that 3 of SOCOM's 22 military officers 
filling these positions are still lacking the required certification. 
Although waivers are permitted on a case-by-case basis, at the time of 
our review SOCOM did not have a process in place to review and grant 
required waivers for those officers not in compliance with DOD 
standards. 

One of the challenges SOCOM faces in filling military acquisition 
positions is that the command often requires military operational 
experience and/or specialized skills. According to SOCOM, Army and Navy 
policies require their acquisition officers to have operational 
assignments before being assigned to the acquisition career field, but 
officers in the Air Force do not have to gain prior operational 
experience. In addition, some of the acquisition positions at SOCOM 
require unique special operations experience. For instance, some of the 
Navy's acquisition positions at SOCOM are designated to be filled by 
Navy SEAL personnel, a group in short supply and generally not trained 
in acquisition. Since SOCOM is reliant on the services to provide 
military acquisition personnel to the command, SOCOM runs the risk of 
not being able to fill acquisition positions if it turns down 
candidates sent forward by the services who do not meet all the 
position requirements. 

Conclusions: 

Thus far, SOCOM has done well with small acquisitions that modify 
readily available commercial technologies and nondevelopmental items. 
It has had more difficulty delivering the more complex systems that 
involve significant development and reliance on the military 
departments. As SOCOM prepares for more growth in its acquisition 
function to meet the expanding needs for special operations forces, it 
will be important for the command to leverage its experience into 
better results in the future. For those more complex acquisitions that 
must be undertaken, opportunities exist for SOCOM to improve its 
results by ensuring that better business cases exist before embarking 
on such acquisitions, especially if they depend on acquisitions being 
managed by other military departments. In addition, the foundation for 
all acquisitions can be improved by (1) ensuring that the size and 
composition of the workforce is a good match for the acquisition 
workload undertaken by SOCOM and (2) having a sound management 
information system to track programs. 

Recommendations for Executive Actions: 

To better position SOCOM to achieve the right acquisition program 
outcomes, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense take the following 
three steps to ensure: 

* SOCOM establishes sound business cases for its more complex and 
military department-managed acquisition programs. Integral to this is 
applying the elements of a knowledge-based acquisition strategy (That 
is: programs match requirements with resources.) and having effective 
agreements in place with the military departments that specify clear 
roles, responsibilities, and expectations for executing programs. 

* as SOCOM increases its acquisition workforce, it (1) obtains 
personnel with the skills and abilities needed for more complex 
acquisitions, (2) makes sure personnel meet DOD acquisition 
certification level requirements, and (3) has the ability to make the 
hiring process as efficient as possible. 

* SOCOM improves the accuracy, timeliness, and usefulness of its 
acquisition management information system. To accomplish this, SOCOM 
should (1) establish enforcement mechanisms to make sure program 
managers submit updated information on a regular basis and (2) conduct 
quality checks to make sure the information is reliable. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

In DOD's letter commenting on a draft of our report, DOD partially 
concurred with the first recommendation and fully concurred with the 
other two recommendations. In partially concurring with the first 
recommendation, DOD agreed with the need to update memorandums of 
agreement between SOCOM and the military departments and apply elements 
of a knowledge-based acquisition strategy but only after it is defined 
by DOD within the 5000 series of documents. This should not result in a 
delay in action on DOD's part as DOD's acquisition policy already 
includes the key elements of a knowledge-based acquisition approach 
particularly regarding technology, design, and production. It is 
important that SOCOM follow this policy because we have found that 
programs experience cost, schedule, and performance problems when they 
proceed into system development and initial manufacturing with lower 
levels of knowledge than specified in DOD's acquisition policy. We 
believe that if properly implemented and enforced, a knowledge-based 
acquisition approach, as defined in DOD acquisition policy, can help 
reduce development risks and lead to better program outcomes on a more 
consistent basis. 

DOD's written comments appear at appendix III. Additionally, SOCOM 
provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate. 

We are sending copies of this report to this report to the Secretary of 
Defense, Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy, and other 
interested parties. 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. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact me on (202) 512-4841. Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions to this 
report are listed in appendix IV. 

Signed by: 

Paul L. Francis: 
Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

To assess what type of programs SOCOM has undertaken and whether they 
have progressed as planned, we collected and reviewed information on 
all programs undertaken by the command between 2001 and 2006. We 
collected specific information on each program pertaining to its size, 
use of commercial off-the-shelf and non-developmental items, and 
acquisition strategy. In addition, we collected data on planned versus 
actual cost, schedule and quantities to be fielded. We analyzed this 
information to determine what types of systems were being acquired and 
the extent to which programs were meeting planned cost, schedule, and 
quantity objectives. We relied on GAO's Applied Research and 
Methodology teams to array and analyze the acquisition programs in our 
review. Further, we interviewed SOCOM's senior-level program executive 
officers to access and review available data on about 50 urgent 
acquisition systems programs, and a small number of the Advanced 
Concept Technology Demonstration programs transitioned by SOCOM to its 
forces. 

To assess and determine the management and workforce challenges facing 
SOCOM, we (1) reviewed and analyzed the current impact that unfunded 
near-term requirements had on the regular approved acquisition 
programs; (2) we reviewed and analyzed the command's key acquisition 
program management tool--the Special Operations Acquisition and 
Logistics Information System--for managing its acquisition programs; 
and (3) to assess the workforce challenges that SOCOM faces, we 
interviewed key SOCOM acquisition officials from SOCOM's Special 
Operations Acquisition and Logistics Center and key civilian and 
military personnel management officials at Tampa, Florida. We relied on 
previous GAO work as a framework for knowledge-based acquisition. 

We performed our review from July 2006 through June 2007 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: SOCOM's Policies, Procedures, and Organizational Structure 
for Managing Acquisitions: 

SOCOM Plans, Resources, Acquires, and Sustains Weapon Systems All under 
One Roof: 

Unlike the military departments, which have geographically dispersed 
acquisition organizations, SOCOM's acquisition activities are 
geographically consolidated. All acquisition support functions integral 
to SOCOM's acquisition activities--contracting, budgeting, and 
requirements setting--are located at SOCOM headquarters. 

The SOCOM Commander has duties analogous to both service Secretaries 
and the service Chiefs. For example, like the Secretaries, he has 
budget, programming, research, development and acquisition, 
contracting, and procurement authority, and he can direct 
investigations and audits. Similar to the service Chiefs, the Commander 
of SOCOM is charged with organizing, training, and equipping SOF 
personnel, establishing requirements, conducting operational testing, 
and providing operational logistics. Unlike other combatant commanders, 
the SOCOM Commander has both command and acquisition authorities--he is 
the only combatant commander with a "checkbook." This arrangement 
allows SOCOM officials to plan, resource, and acquire SOF-peculiar 
equipment. 

SOCOM decides what weapon systems and equipment to acquire through a 
centralized strategic-planning and resource allocation process where 
requirements are assessed and prioritized and programs are selected 
based on competing needs and available resources. The process has many 
of the characteristics of an integrated portfolio management framework 
that GAO recently reported as lacking at DOD in its departmentwide 
approach to weapon system investments.[Footnote 16] That is, SOCOM 
addresses weapon system programs collectively from an enterprise level, 
rather than as independent and unrelated programs. Proposed programs 
are assessed through a screening process that weighs the relative 
costs, benefits, and risks of each, and selects those that help SOCOM 
balance near and future term opportunities, different SOF component 
capability needs, and available resources against the demand for new 
and ongoing systems and equipment. 

SOCOM has a close relationship with its customers--the SOF community-- 
and receives inputs regarding capability needs directly from SOF 
operators and component commands on an ongoing basis. SOCOM officials 
with operational experience and expertise in different program areas 
assess and prioritize the requests from the component commands on a bi- 
annual basis. These officials rate each proposal in terms of its 
potential to fulfill required military operational tasks. The officials 
then forward their assessments to SOCOM's central decision-making body-
-the Board of Directors--for a final determination of what acquisition 
programs should be undertaken by the command and where resources should 
go. 

The Board of Directors is composed of the SOCOM commander, all SOF 
component commanders, as well as the Assistant Secretary of Defense, 
Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD(SO/LIC))--OSD's 
principal advisor on special operations activities and the organization 
charged with interfacing with SOCOM. ASD(SO/LIC)'s position on the 
Board of Directors allows DOD insight and a voice into what acquisition 
programs SOCOM undertakes.[Footnote 17] Although DOD has an oversight 
role and decision authority over ACAT I programs, as previously 
discussed, over 95 percent of SOCOM's acquisition programs are below 
the ACAT I level. Therefore, ASD(SO/LIC) has no direct day-to-day 
oversight role in the bulk of SOCOM programs. The Board of Directors is 
SOCOM's primary and final approval authority regarding regular planned 
SOF-peculiar acquisition programs. 

Once the need for a SOF capability is verified and approved through 
SOCOM's strategic planning process, it is reviewed through DOD's Joint 
Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) to verify that 
it is a SOF-unique requirement, and not duplicative of a Service-common 
system.[Footnote 18] However, according to SOCOM officials, JCIDS often 
fails to resolve time-sensitive SOF capabilities gaps that may be 
identified during active combat. Therefore, to support SOF acquisition 
priorities, SOCOM established its own version of the larger joint- 
requirement-setting process--the SOF Capabilities Integration and 
Development System--which interoperates with the command's Acquisition 
Management System and Strategic Planning Process. 

SOCOM employs a two-tiered SOF Capabilities Integration and Development 
System--standard and fast track--to support SOF priorities. The 
standard capabilities process parallels the JCIDS process although it 
is internal to SOCOM to specifically address SOF-unique capability 
gaps. The fast track process is used when a SOCOM component identifies 
an urgent and critical capability gap--derived from a combat-mission 
need statement. This process is not intended as a means to circumvent 
the command's standard acquisition portfolio management process, rather 
it is SOCOM's method to accelerate its response to compelling and time- 
sensitive SOF-peculiar needs. 

Under the SOF Capabilities Integration and Development System, 
validation and approval of a combat mission need statement mandates an 
offset of resources as it constitutes a "must-pay" bill for SOCOM. Once 
the mission need statement is approved through the Fast-Track CIDS 
process, SOCOM officials initiate an urgent deployment acquisition to 
expedite the acquisition and field the required equipment. At this 
point, command officials reallocate resources to fund the urgent 
deployment acquisition. SOCOM's goal is to field equipment within 180 
days of approval. 

SOCOM Has Unique Program Management Structure Options: 

SOCOM can arrange to transfer program management and milestone decision 
authority (MDA) responsibilities to one of the military departments to 
execute the program on behalf of the command. SOCOM has delegated 
responsibilities to the military departments in many of the acquisition 
programs underway that involve some modification of military department-
provided equipment or in cases where the services have greater 
technical and specific platform program management expertise, such as 
fixed and rotary wing aircraft or submarine programs. SOCOM's 
Acquisition Executive is the milestone decision authority for all SOCOM 
acquisition programs, unless the executive delegates that authority. 
However, through memorandums of agreement with the Army, Navy, and Air 
Force, SOCOM employs a range of program management structures. The 
command has the following three basic options for managing individual 
programs: 

* SOCOM can manage a program in-house by designating both a SOCOM 
program manager and MDA to execute the program. 

* SOCOM, through a program specific memorandum of agreement with a 
military department, can agree on appointment of a department program 
manager to manage the program under the direction of a SOCOM MDA. 

* SOCOM can transfer both program management and MDA responsibility to 
a military department through a program-specific memorandum of 
agreement, to execute the program on behalf of SOCOM. 

Applicable policies and procedures vary somewhat for each of the 
program management options just described. For example, for SOCOM MDA 
and SOCOM managed programs, SOCOM's acquisition and logistics 
directives and standard operating procedures apply, and according to 
SOCOM, any exceptions are noted in the acquisition program's 
Acquisition Decision Memorandum. Secondly, for SOCOM MDA and military 
department managed programs, responsibilities and exceptions to SOCOM 
procedures are intended to be defined in program specific memorandums 
of agreement. Finally, for programs with a military department MDA and 
program manager, the military department's policies and procedures 
normally apply. Table 9 illustrates how the acquisition executive has 
delegated or retained decision authority for programs undertaken from 
2001 to 2006. 

Table 9: Summary of SOCOM Acquisition Programs' MDAs and Program 
Managers: 

Milestone decision authority: Program manager; 
SOCOM: SOCOM; 
SOCOM: MILDEP; 
Military department (MILDEP): MILDEP. 

Milestone decision authority: Percentages; 
SOCOM: 45%; 
SOCOM: 18%; 
Military department (MILDEP): 37%[A]. 

Source: SOCOM data, GAO analysis. 

[A] Totals do not include one program with a non-MILDEP MDA and one 
program with a MILDEP MDA and SOCOM program manager. 

[End of table] 

SOCOM is the MDA for over 60 percent of its acquisition programs. The 
SOCOM MDA could be the Acquisition Executive or a program executive 
officer, depending on the size and importance of the program. The 
Acquisition Executive has delegated the MDA role to the military 
departments for approximately 37 percent of SOCOM's acquisition 
programs. For programs managed directly by SOCOM, the command has a 
hierarchical management structure, as shown in figure 6, which 
resembles the military departments in its internal acquisition 
organizational make-up. 

Figure 6: SOCOM's Acquisition Programs Management Structure: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: SOCOM. 

[End of figure] 

The program executive offices utilize program managers and system 
acquisition managers organized by program. System acquisition managers 
are charged with assisting the military department in program planning 
and execution and also representing SOCOM at military department-led 
integrated-product teams, technical conferences, and program reviews. 
System acquisition managers are normally used when the MDA and program 
manager or both options are assigned to a military department. 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Office Of The Under Secretary Of Defense: 
3000 Defense Pentagon: 
Washington, DC 20301-3000: 
Acquisition, Technology And Logistics: 

Jun 1 4 2007: 

Mr. Paul L. Francis: 
Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Mr. Francis: 

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) response to the GAO Draft 
Report, GAO-07-620, `Defense Acquisitions: An Analysis of the Special 
Operations Command's Management of Weapon System Programs,' dated May 
16, 2007 (GAO Code 120563). 

The Department has completed its evaluation of the draft report. The 
DoD response to the GAO recommendations are contained in Attachment 1. 
At Attachment 2, I've included some technical accuracy and editorial 
review comments for your consideration. 

My point of contact for the recommendation response and review comments 
is Grace Washburn, (703) 697-3383, grace.washburn@osd.mil.  

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

Nancy L. Spruill: 
Director, Acquisition Resources and Analysis: 

Enclosures: 
As stated: 

GAO Draft Report Dated May 16, 2007 GAO-07-620 (GAO CODES 120563): 

"Defense Acquisitions: An Analysis Of The Special Operations Command's 
Management Of Weapon System Programs" 

Department Of Defense Comments To The GAO Recommendation: 

Recommendation 1: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
take steps to ensure Special Operations Command (SOCOM) establishes 
sound business cases for its more complex and military service-managed 
acquisition programs. Integral to this is applying the elements of a 
knowledge-based acquisition strategy and having effective arrangements 
in place with the military services that specify clear roles, 
responsibilities, and expectations for executing programs. 

DOD Response: Partial concur. DoD concurs with the recommendation that 
OSD should take steps to ensure that Special Operations Command (SOCOM) 
establishes sound business cases for its more complex and military 
department-managed acquisition programs. DoD concurs with the 
recommendation to update its Memoranda of Agreement with military 
departments to specify clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations 
for executing programs. DoD concurs with applying elements of a 
knowledge-based acquisition strategy but only after it is defined by 
DoD within the 5000 series of documents. 

Recommendation 2: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
take steps to ensure SOCOM, as it increases its acquisition workforce: 
(1) obtains personnel with the skills and abilities needed for more 
complex acquisitions, (2) makes sure personnel meet DoD acquisition 
certification level requirements, and (3) has the ability to make the 
hiring process as efficient as possible. 

DOD Response: Concur: 

Recommendation 3: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
take steps to ensure SOCOM improves the accuracy, timeliness, and 
usefulness of its acquisition management information system. To 
accomplish this, SOCOM should: (1) establish enforcement mechanisms to 
make sure program managers submit updated information on a regular 
basis and (2) conduct quality checks to make sure the information is 
reliable. 

DOD Response: Concur: 

[End of section] 

[End of section] 

Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Paul L. Francis, Director, (202) 512-4841: 

Staff Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact above, John Oppenheim, Assistant Director, 
Leon S. Gill, John Ortiz, Michele Williamson, Julia Kennon, Greg 
Campbell, and Marie Ahearn made key contributions to this report. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. GAO-07- 
406SP. Washington, D.C.: March 30, 2007. 

Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Major Weapon Programs. 
GAO-06-391. Washington, D.C.: March 31, 2006. 

Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Major Weapon Programs. 
GAO-05-301. Washington, D.C.: March 31, 2005. 

Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Major Weapon Programs. GAO-04-248. 
Washington, D.C.: March 31, 2004. 

Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Major Weapon Programs. GAO-03-476. 
Washington, D.C.: May 15, 2003. 

Defense Acquisitions: Advanced SEAL Delivery System Program Needs 
Increased Oversight. GAO-03-442. Washington, D.C.: March 31, 2003. 

Defense Acquisitions: Readiness of the Marine Corps' V-22 Aircraft for 
Full-Rate Production. GAO-01-369R. Washington, D.C.: February 20, 2001. 

Navy Aviation: V-22 Cost and Capability to Meet Requirements Are Yet to 
Be Determined. NSIAD/GAO-98-13. Washington, D.C.: October 22, 1997. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Pursuant to Title 10 United States Code, Section 167, the 
Commander, U. S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is vested with the 
responsibilities and the authority for the development and acquisition 
of special operations forces (SOF)-peculiar equipment, the authority to 
exercise the functions of the head of agency, and the authority to 
execute its own budget. SOF-peculiar equipment is defined as equipment, 
materials, supplies, and services required for SOF activities for which 
there is no service-common requirement. 

[2] The Advanced SEAL Delivery System is a long-range submersible 
capability to deliver special operations forces for clandestine 
missions. The submersible "hybrid combatant" provides improved range, 
speed, and payload, and habitability for the operators. CV-22 Osprey is 
a tiltrotor aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff, hover, and 
vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel 
efficiency, and speed of a turboprop aircraft. Its mission is to 
conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions 
for SOF. 

[3] DOD categorizes acquisition programs into several categories--ACAT 
I, II, and III. These categories are determined by the cost threshold 
in fiscal year 2000 constant dollars, special interest, and the level 
of decision authority. ACAT I programs have an estimated eventual total 
expenditure for research, development, technology, and evaluation of 
more than $365 million or for procurement of more than $2.190 billion, 
and milestone decision authority resides with DOD's Under Secretary of 
Defense, Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics (USD/AT&L), head of 
the DOD component, or if delegated the DOD component acquisition 
executive. ACAT II programs have an estimated eventual total 
expenditure for research, development, test, and evaluation of more 
than $140 million or for procurement in excess of $660 million, and 
milestone decision authority resides with the DOD component acquisition 
executive or its designee. ACAT III programs are all other acquisition 
programs that do not meet the criteria of an ACAT II or above program 
and milestone decision authority is designated by the component 
acquisition executive at the lowest appropriate level. 

[4] DOD's Future Year Defense Programs reflect decisions made in the 
planning, programming, and budgeting system, which is intended to 
produce the best possible mixture of forces, equipment, and support to 
accomplish the mission. 

[5] A Unified Combatant Command is a U.S. joint military command 
composed of forces from two or more services and has broad and 
continuing mission. 

[6] Pub. L. No. 99-661 Div A, ß1311 (Nov.14, 1986), codified at 10 
U.S.C ß167. 

[7] Congress directed DOD to include a new special operations budget 
category, major force program-11. This provides the command with 
funding authority for the development and acquisition of equipment, 
materials, supplies, and services peculiar to special operations. 

[8] DOD Directive 5000.1, Subject: The Defense Acquisition System (May 
12, 2003) and Department of Defense Instruction 5000.2, Subject: 
Operation of the Defense Acquisition System (May 12, 2003). 

[9] 10 U.S.C. Sections 1701-1764. 

[10] DOD Instructions 5000.66, Subject: Operations of the Defense 
Acquisition, Technology, Logistics Workforce Education, Training, and 
Career Development Program (Dec. 21, 2005). 

[11] The milestone decision authority is the designated individual with 
overall responsibility for a program. The MDA has the authority to 
approve entry of an acquisition program into the next phase of the 
acquisition process and is accountable for cost, schedule, and 
performance reporting to higher authority, including congressional 
reporting. For ACAT I level programs, USD (AT&L), head of a DOD 
component, or if delegated the DOD component acquisition executive is 
the initial milestone decision authority. 

[12] SOCOM also has mission planning and training systems, which are 
included in the fixed wing programs. 

[13] DOD guidelines for selecting Advanced Concept Technology 
Developments include the following: (1) the time frame for evaluating 
their military utility is typically 2 to 4 years; (2) the technology 
should be sufficiently mature; (3) they should provide an effective 
response to a priority military need; (4) a lead service or agency has 
been designated; (5) risks have been identified and accepted; (6) 
demonstrations or exercises have been identified that will provide a 
basis for assessing the military utility; and (7) funding is sufficient 
to complete them. 

[14] As defined in the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act 
(DAWIA), any acquisition position in DOD that is required to be filled 
by (a) military grade of lieutenant colonel (or commander for the Navy) 
or a higher grade or (b) an employee in a senior position in the 
National Security Personnel System or in the Senior Executive Service, 
is required to be designated as a critical acquisition position. 

[15] DOD Instruction 5000.66, Subject: Operation of the Defense 
Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Workforce Education, Training, 
and Career Development Program (Dec. 21, 2005) and Department of 
Defense Desk Guide for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Workforce 
Career Management (Jan. 10, 2006). 

[16] GAO, Best Practices: An Integrated Portfolio Management Approach 
to Weapon System Investments Could Improve DOD's Acquisition Outcomes, 
GAO-07-388 (Washington, D.C., Mar. 30, 2007). In this review, GAO 
compared DOD's processes for investing in weapon systems to the best 
practices that successful commercial companies use to invest in new 
products. GAO found that DOD's organizational structures, processes, 
and practices for planning and acquiring weapon systems at a department 
wide level are fragmented, making it difficult for the department to 
prioritize needs, make informed trade-offs, and achieve a balanced mix 
of programs that are affordable, feasible, and provide the best value 
to the warfighter. Commercial companies use an integrated portfolio 
management approach to product development where the relative pros and 
cons of market opportunities and competing product proposals are 
assessed and a balanced mix of products is selected that ensures a good 
return on investment and moves the company toward achieving its 
strategic goals and objectives within available resources. 

[17] The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low- 
Intensity Conflict (ASD(SO/LIC)) is the principal staff assistant and 
civilian advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the 
Secretary of Defense on Special Operations (SO) and Low-Intensity 
Conflict (LIC) activities. ASD(SO/LIC) is responsible for developing, 
coordinating, and overseeing the implementation of policy for SO and 
LIC activities and for ensuring adherence to approved policy. ASD(SO/ 
LIC) is also required to provide supervision of the preparation and 
justification of Special Operations Forces programs and budget. ASD 
(SO/LIC) is also charged to be the proponent for SO and LIC issues in 
the Defense Acquisition Board and other appropriate boards and 
committees, and maintain liaison to monitor progress in achieving 
milestones. 

[18] JCIDS is intended to manage military requirements across DOD, and 
provide a top down, analytic-based process for affirming capability 
gaps and proposed solutions to meet the needs of the warfighter. 

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