Defense Acquisitions:

Better Acquisition Strategy Needed for Successful Development of the Army's Warrior Unmanned Aircraft System

GAO-06-593: Published: May 19, 2006. Publicly Released: May 19, 2006.

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Through 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to spend $20 billion on unmanned aircraft systems, including the Army's "Warrior." Because of congressional concerns that some systems have been more costly and taken more time to produce than predicted, GAO reviewed the Warrior program. This report (1) describes the Army's requirements underlying its decision to acquire Warrior instead of existing systems such as the Air Force's Predator, and (2) assesses whether the Army has established a sound acquisition strategy for the Warrior program.

The Army determined the Warrior is its best option for an unmanned aircraft system directly controlled by field commanders, compared with existing systems such as the Air Force's Predator A. The Army believes that using the Warrior will improve force capability through teaming with other Army assets; using common ground control equipment; and allowing soldiers in the field to operate it. Warrior's key technical features include a heavy fuel engine; automatic take-off and landing system; faster tactical common data link; ethernet; greater carrying capacity for weapons; and avionics with enhanced reliability. The Army projects that Warrior will offer some cost savings over Predator A. In terms of technology maturity, design stability, and a realistic schedule, the Army has not yet established a sound, knowledge-based acquisition strategy for Warrior. Two of four of the Warrior's critical technologies were immature at the contract award for system development and demonstration and remain so in early 2006, and the mature technologies still have some risk associated with them because neither has previously been fully integrated onto an unmanned aircraft. The Warrior schedule allows 32 months from award of the development and demonstration contract to the initial production decision. Achieving this schedule will require concurrency of technology and product development, testing, and production. Once developmental aircraft are available for testing, the Army plans to fund procurement of long-lead items in August 2007. Experience shows that these concurrencies can result in design changes during production that can prevent delivery of a system within projected cost and schedule. The Warrior program faces these same risks.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Army should not approve long-lead items for Warrior low-rate initial production until it can clearly demonstrate that the program is proceeding based on accumulated knowledge and not a predetermined schedule. In particular, prior to approving the Warrior long-lead items for low-rate initial production, the Secretary of the Army should require that critical Warrior technologies are fully mature and demonstrated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense non-concurred with this recommendation and stated that it would use back-up technologies if the planned technologies were not ready for integration into the Warrior unmanned aircraft. The Department stated that, in accordance with DOD guidance, it believes technology readiness levels are adequate due to existence of a planned and funded program and availability of back-up technologies. In addition, the Army has already approved long-lead items for low-rate initial production; therefore the recommendation can no longer be implemented.

    Recommendation: The Army should not approve long-lead items for Warrior low-rate initial production until it can clearly demonstrate that the program is proceeding based on accumulated knowledge and not a predetermined schedule. In particular, prior to approving the Warrior long-lead items for low-rate initial production, the Secretary of the Army should require that Warrior design integration is complete and at least 90 percent of design drawings be completed and released to manufacturing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense concurred with this recommendation and said that it will seek to obtain at least 90 percent of engineering drawings completed and released to manufacturing before purchasing long-lead parts for Warrior. GAO will continue to track this program to determine if the Department proceeded accordingly.

    Recommendation: The Army should not approve long-lead items for Warrior low-rate initial production until it can clearly demonstrate that the program is proceeding based on accumulated knowledge and not a predetermined schedule. In particular, prior to approving the Warrior long-lead items for low-rate initial production, the Secretary of the Army should require that fully-integrated Warrior developmental aircraft are fabricated and involved in development testing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense non-concurred with this recommendation and stated that it believes other methods will mitigate design and performance risks. The Army is fabricating and will test Warrior prototypes, but they will not be fully integrated versions. In addition, the Army has already approved long-lead items for low-rate initial production; therefore the recommendation can no longer be implemented.

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