Issues Concerning the Navy's Expendable Reliable Acoustic Path Sonobuoy and Advanced Signal Processor

C-MASAD-82-14: Published: Feb 26, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1982.

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Sonobuoys are acoustic sensors which, when dropped into the water from aircraft, are designed to detect the presence of submarines. Signal processors on board aircraft and ships analyze sonobuoy data to enhance submarine detection, classification, and location. GAO presented its views on the major unresolved issues in developing and procuring the expendable reliable acoustic path sonobuoy (ERAPS) and the advanced signal processor.

The ERAPS development program is encumbered with many costly and complex technical problems. Potential production costs are not known at this time. GAO found that the ERAPS is the most complex in design and operation of the Navy's tactical sonobuoys. Special requirements increase its technical risk. It is not compatible with user aircraft without hardware and software modifications and requires special handling, storage, safety, training, and maintenance procedures. The Navy has not proposed a cost-effect mission for the ERAPS relative to other available sensors or tactics. Depending on the quantities procured, its expense might force the Navy to forego buying other needed sonobuoys. The advanced signal processor production costs are not firm, but could exceed $1 billion. GAO found that: (1) the Navy could not provide a total cost estimate for the advanced signal processor; (2) operational testing with the larger memory module has not been completed; (3) the full benefits of the processor will not materialize for several years, because the needed computer programs will not be available; (4) the processor could become technologically obsolete due to recent rapid advances in computer processing; and (5) the Navy has no analyses showing that the advanced signal processor is or can be cost effective in comparison to alternatives. Standardization offers advantages such as reduced development, production, and support costs; but it may inhibit new, lower cost technology and competition, prohibit tailoring to system requirements, and increase life-cycle costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to provide convincing evidence and a sound justification that the technology is at hand and expendable reliable acoustic path sonobuoys are needed. Otherwise, the program, as presently structured, should be terminated. However, research to advance the technology should continue if the Department of Defense (DOD) deems that it is essential to future antisubmarine warfare capability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to provide convincing evidence and a sound justification that the technology is at hand and expendable reliable acoustic path sonobuoys are needed. Otherwise, the program, as presently structured, should be terminated. However, research to advance the technology should continue if the Department of Defense (DOD) deems that it is essential to future antisubmarine warfare capability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to reevaluate and justify the quantity to be acquired and proposed uses for the advanced signal processors currently in the procurement plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to reevaluate and justify the quantity to be acquired and proposed uses for the advanced signal processors currently in the procurement plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to fully define the total cost to produce, operate, and support the advanced signal processor, including hardware and software acquisition and integration, software maintenance, integrated logistics support, and spares.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to fully define the total cost to produce, operate, and support the advanced signal processor, including hardware and software acquisition and integration, software maintenance, integrated logistics support, and spares.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to provide conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the advanced signal processor is cost effective in comparison to alternatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to provide conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the advanced signal processor is cost effective in comparison to alternatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

 

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