Technology Development:

New DOD Space Science and Technology Strategy Provides Basis for Optimizing Investments, but Future Versions Need to Be More Robust

GAO-05-155: Published: Jan 28, 2005. Publicly Released: Jan 28, 2005.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Cristina T. Chaplain
(937) 258-7915
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The Department of Defense (DOD) is depending heavily on new space-based technologies to support and transform future military operations. Yet there are concerns that efforts to develop technologies for space systems are not tied to strategic goals for space and are not well planned or coordinated. In the National Defense Authorization Act for 2004, the Congress required DOD to develop a space science and technology (S&T) strategy that sets out goals and a process for achieving those goals. The Congress also required GAO to assess this strategy as well as the required coordination process.

DOD's new strategy for space S&T met four of the nine requirements set out by the Congress and plans are in place to meet the remaining requirements. These included requirements for setting short- and long-term goals and a process for achieving those goals as well as requirements that focused on ensuring the strategy was developed with laboratories, research components, and other organizations involved in space S&T and ensuring the strategy would be reviewed by appropriate entities and revised periodically. In addition to meeting these requirements, GAO found that development of the strategy itself helped spur collaboration within the DOD space S&T community since it required diverse organizations to come together, share knowledge, and establish agreement on basic goals. Since the strategy has only recently been issued, it is too early to assess whether the direction and processes outlined in the strategy will be effective in supporting and guiding future space S&T efforts. Moreover, DOD officials are still working out the details of some implementation mechanisms. However, in order to better position DOD for successful implementation, GAO believes that the plan should contain stronger linkages to DOD's requirements setting process, identify additional measures for assessing progress in achieving strategic goals, and explicitly cover all efforts related to space S&T. Moreover, there are formidable barriers that stand in the way of optimizing DOD's investment in space S&T. DOD does not have complete visibility over all spending related to space S&T, including spending occurring within some S&T organizations and acquisition programs. Without a means to see where funding is being targeted, DOD may not be able to assure all spending on technology development is focused on achieving its goals. The S&T community itself may not have resources critical to achieving DOD's goals. In recent years, funding and opportunities for testing for the space S&T community have decreased. And, concerns have grown about the adequacy of the space S&T workforce. DOD acquisition programs continue to undertake technology development that should be occurring within an S&T environment, which is more forgiving and less costly than a delivery-oriented acquisition program environment. Until this is done, cost increases resulting from technology problems within acquisitions may keep resources away from the S&T community. By using the strategy as a tool for assessing and addressing these challenges, DOD can better position itself for achieving its goals and also strengthen the S&T base supporting space.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has begun to establish metrics to monitor the level of effort, progress, and technology readiness to ensure that the goals outlined in the space S&T strategy are being met. Portions of the Next Generation Launch Capability roadmap were provided during a Space S&T Summit meeting to demonstrate specific system performance metrics and component technology maturity levels incorporated as an integral part of the roadmap process. These roadmaps are expected to be periodically updated and revised once NASA has completed the restructuring of its programs to implement the President's Space Exploration Vision. The Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) has also modified the S&T review process to a Comprehensive S&T Review process to better rationalize the program with the strategic direction of the Department and identify additional gaps or emphasis areas.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the (1) Executive Agent for Space and (2) the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) (to whom the DDR&E reports) to continue to ensure that DOD has the right tools for measuring progress in achieving its goals for space by identifying metrics that could be used for assessing the value of S&T projects relative to strategic goals and knowledge being gained relative to goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD officials have reported to GAO that they plan to link the space S&T strategy to architectural development efforts, including those within the office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering and the National Security Space Office. The DOD Joint Warfighting Science and Technology Plan (JWSTP) was revised and issued in January 2006. The JWSTP looks across the applied research and advanced technology development plans of the services and defense agencies. Its objective is to help ensure that the S&T program supports priority future joint warfighting capabilities as determined by the Functional Capabilities Boards, which ensure sufficient support for each Joint Functional Concept. The JWSTP, together with the Defense Technology Area Plan and the Basic Research Plan, help ensure that the near-, mid-, and long-term needs of the joint warfighter are properly balanced and supported in the S&T planning, programming, budgeting, and assessment activities of DOD. The Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) has also expanded the inputs to its S&T decision-making process to include capturing more information about global S&T activity, increased formal and informal inputs from the Combatant Commands (COCOMs), more interaction with the interagency processes, and an expanded comprehensive review process with the Services and Defense Agencies. In May 2007, DOD updated its Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS). The prioritized joint warfighting capabilities identified through the JCIDS process should serve to inform the S&T community and focus the developmental efforts of the community as specified in the JWSTP. Applying the linkages will allow the National Security Space Office to align future technology requirements in the architectures.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the (1) Executive Agent for Space and (2) the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) (to whom the DDR&E reports) to ensure that the space S&T strategy fully reflects warfighter needs by establishing links between space S&T strategic planning and DOD's new Joint Capabilities and Development System. In addition, establish links to architectural development processes to assure that S&T projects align with future technology requirements identified in space-related architectures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, the Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) and the DOD Executive Agent for Space are holding summit reviews of space S&T investments, which includes participation from acquisition organizations, DOD, and intelligence community organizations. In addition, the DDR&E Director, serving in the role of the Department's Chief Technology Officer, has expanded its outreach to the Combatant Commands (COCOMs) and the intelligence community. Specifically, it worked closely with the COCOMs through the Joint Staff Joint Functional Capability Boards to develop the 2006 Joint Warfighting S&T Plan (JWSTP). DDR&E is a formal member of the S&T Intelligence Committee, a National Intelligence Council Working Group, with representation from across the intelligence community. DDR&E also continues to interact and collaborate with federal, state and local governments. DDR&E, in conjunction with other partners (e.g. Department of Homeland Security), formed an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) called the Homeland Security/Homeland Defense Command and Control. This ACTD links DOD capabilities (e.g. Northern Command) with civilian authorities to address important communication and command operational picture challenges for federal, state and local communities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the (1) Executive Agent for Space and (2) the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) (to whom the DDR&E reports) to establish protocols and mechanisms for enhancing coordination and knowledge sharing between the DOD S&T community, acquisition programs involved in space, and DOD intelligence agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In responding to GAO's report, DOD identified several recent internal initiatives aimed at addressing the barriers GAO identified. These include (1) enhancements to the Major Force Program, which is designed to increase funding visibility and most recently included a DARPA space unique PE for space projects; (2) the DT&E Facilities Database and S&T Space Flight Opportunities Survey, which are designed to address the need for improving testing resources; and (3) larger "DOD manpower efforts" which are partially focused on space S&T workforce issues. The Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) has also modified the S&T review process to a Comprehensive S&T Review process to better rationalize the program with the strategic direction of the Department and identify additional gaps or emphasis areas, and has expanded the inputs to the S&T decision-making process to include capturing more information about global S&T activity, increased formal and informal inputs from the Combatant Commands (COCOMs), and more interaction with the interagency processes. During the past several years, DOD has been engaged in several activities to help understand and characterize the national security science and engineering workforce situation within the DOD and outside, to include interagency forums (e.g. National Security R&D Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council), industry (e.g. National Defense Industrial Association and Aerospace Industry Association studies and workshops), and national competitiveness forums (e.g. National Innovation Initiative). The DOD also has in place the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) defense scholarship program, mandated by Congress. A 2006 amendment to SMART further enables the development of DOD's future workforce by establishing a permanent program to include efforts to increase development, recruitment, and retention of individuals with physical science disciplines critical to DOD and expanding the number of academic degrees covered by the program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the (1) Executive Agent for Space and (2) the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) (to whom the DDR&E reports) to develop plans for addressing barriers to achieving strategic goals for S&T, including deficiencies in research, development, test and evaluation funding visibility, testing resources, and workforce. A first step would be to include skills critical to S&T in the workforce study identified in the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Authorization Act Conference Report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 10, 2014

Jul 23, 2014

Jun 9, 2014

May 20, 2014

  • science icon, source: National Cancer Institute

    Nanomanufacturing and U.S. Competitiveness:

    Challenges and Opportunities
    GAO-14-618T: Published: May 20, 2014. Publicly Released: May 20, 2014.

Feb 7, 2014

Dec 20, 2013

Nov 4, 2013

  • science icon, source: National Cancer Institute

    Small Business Innovation Research:

    Data Rights Protections
    GAO-14-116R: Published: Nov 4, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 2013.

Jul 19, 2013

Apr 10, 2013

Feb 15, 2013

Looking for more? Browse all our products here