Land Mine Detection:

DOD's Research Program Needs a Comprehensive Evaluation Strategy

GAO-01-239: Published: Apr 17, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 2001.

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Recent U.S. military operations have shown that land mines continue to pose a significant threat to U.S. forces. U.S. land mine detection capabilities are limited and largely unchanged since the Second World War. Improving the Department of Defense's (DOD) land mine detection capability is a technological challenge This report reviews DOD's strategy for identifying the most promising land mine detection technologies. GAO found that DOD's ability to substantially improve its land mine detection capabilities may be limited because DOD lacks an effective strategy for identifying and evaluating the most promising technologies. Although DOD maintains an extensive program of outreach to external researchers and other nations' military research organizations, it does not use an effective methodology to evaluate all technological options to guide its investment decisions. DOD is investing in several technologies to overcome the mine detection problem, but it is not clear that DOD has chosen the most promising technologies. Because DOD has not systematically assessed potential land mine detection technologies against mission needs, GAO did its own assessment. GAO found that the technologies DOD is exploring are limited in their ability to meet mission needs or are greatly uncertain in their potential. GAO identified other technologies that might address DOD's needs, but they are in immature states of development and it is unclear whether they are more promising than the approaches that DOD is exploring.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the Department of Defense concurred with GAO's recommendations in a letter dated April 3, 2001, it has not described what steps it will take to implement them.

    Recommendation: To improve the Department's ability to identify and pursue the most promising technologies for land mine detection, The Secretary of Defense should (1) direct the establishment of a long-range research program to periodically evaluate all applicable land mine detection technologies against a complete set of mission-based criteria and (2) provide a sustained level of basic research to sufficiently address scientific uncertainties.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the Department of Defense concurred with GAO's recommendations in a letter dated April 3, 2001, it has not described what steps it will take to implement them.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the services to provide adequate testing conditions for land mine detection systems in development that better reflect the operating environment in which they will likely have to operate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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