Defense Management:

DOD Needs to Improve Program Management, Policy, and Testing to Enhance Ability to Field Operationally Useful Non-lethal Weapons

GAO-09-344: Published: Apr 21, 2009. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 2009.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Davi M. Dagostino
(202) 512-3000
contact@gao.gov

 

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

Nonlethal weapons (NLW) provide an alternative when lethal force is undesirable. The Department of Defense (DOD) defines NLW as those that are explicitly designed and primarily employed to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment. DOD created the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program in 1996 to have centralized responsibility for the development of NLW and coordinate requirements among the services. GAO was asked to review the status of NLW programs within DOD and the military services by identifying the extent to which (1) DOD and the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program have developed and fielded NLW since the program's inception; (2) DOD has established and implemented policy, doctrine, and training for NLW; and (3) DOD has conducted testing and evaluation prior to fielding NLW. GAO reviewed and analyzed DOD and service plans, guidance, and doctrine and interviewed officials associated with NLW development.

The joint non-lethal weapons program has conducted more than 50 research and development efforts and spent at least $386 million since 1997, but it has not developed any new weapons and the military services have fielded 4 items stemming from these efforts that only partially fill some capability gaps identified since 1998. Three major factors contribute to the program's limited progress in fully addressing capability gaps. First, DOD did not prioritize departmentwide non-lethal capability gaps until 2007 and still does not fully address these gaps. Second, DOD has not consistently incorporated logistics and supportability considerations early in the development process. As a result, DOD may miss opportunities to allocate resources more effectively. Third, DOD has exercised limited general oversight of the NLW program which has resulted in gaps in key program guidance as well as limited measurement of progress and performance. For example, DOD's road map of ongoing and projected NLW capabilities and efforts could be used to discharge oversight responsibilities, but the road map lacks guidance about how to allocate resources and evaluate performance. Further, DOD has no single organization with visibility over all spending, and available budget information may not fully capture all spending associated with the development of non-lethal capabilities. DOD has begun to incorporate ideas about non-lethal capabilities into policy, doctrine, and training but has not yet clearly articulated what constitutes acceptable risk for fatality, fully developed weapons employment policies for the use of force in overseas warfighting or homeland applications, or ensured that warfighters and domestic responders are fully trained in NLW use. Until these issues are resolved, doctrine and training for non-lethal weapons may be limited, and the warfighter or domestic responder may have fewer options other than resorting to lethal force. DOD lacks a clear methodology for estimating the human effects of non-lethal weapons and does not fully test and evaluate many non-lethal weapons because they have been fielded under urgent operational requirements that abbreviate normal DOD testing standards. Testing can be bypassed for commercial items because DOD officials can use contractor test data instead of conducting their own tests. Therefore, when NLW are fielded, commanders are uncertain about acceptable risk on targets and bystanders and cannot accurately predict their effects. DOD has begun to develop elements of a risk assessment methodology to address human effects testing; for example, it has drafted a Risk of Significant Injury scale, which broadly categorizes levels of health care capabilities required to reverse NLW effects. However, DOD has not completed a risk assessment methodology that would provide information to commanders so that they may then make a determination about its acceptability in their operating environment.

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: To help DOD more fully incorporate non-lethal concepts and capabilities into its existing and new policy and doctrine for operations overseas and in the homeland, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Staff, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Services, to provide clearer weapons employment guidance that can be used to modify or augment existing rules of engagement or rules for the use of force for both warfighters and domestic responders on how non-lethal weapons should be used under certain conditions, and incorporate this guidance into training curricula.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that non-lethal weapons employment should be integrated into existing policy documents to provide complementary guidance. In August 2010, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) provided a list of all joint doctrine publications (operations series) and specifically identified those that 1) address NLW, 2) cite employment of fires but do not differentiate between lethal weapons and NLW, and 3) are not applicable. DOD used this process to confirm that key publications are regularly updated. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help DOD more fully incorporate non-lethal concepts and capabilities into its existing and new policy and doctrine for operations overseas and in the homeland, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to articulate a methodology and develop a time frame for determining acceptable risk with respect to lethality and permanent injury for operators, targets, and bystanders due to the use of specific types of NLW.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, stating in 2009 that the department agreed with the need for a methodology and timeframe for assessing the risks inherent in the employment of specific types of non-lethal weapons. DOD stated that it appreciated GAO's acknowledgement of its efforts to draft the Risk of Significant Injury methodology to address this need. The methodology is intended to enable requirements developers to characterize risks to targets. It has been incorporated into the requirements development process of two non-lethal weapons programs. DOD further reported that in response to the recommendation, the methodology is the basis for a department-wide human effects characterization guidance document. DOD issued this guidance, DOD Instruction 3200.19, "Non-Lethal Weapons Human Effects Characterization," on May 17, 2012. These actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in its role in overseeing DOD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to develop and execute a methodology for monitoring all NLW-related funding and programs across DOD and designate a central focal point within that office to coordinate the effort with the JNLWD.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that in August 2009, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) requested the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) to provide annual DOD NLW investment reports. DOD reported that the first such report was completed in April 2010, providing AT&L with FY 2010-15 investment plans across all appropriations including Science and Technology, R&D, Procurement, and O&M. Also included in this report is an assessment by the JNLWD on overall DOD program progress and issues. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in its role in overseeing DOD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the Secretary of Defense should require the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to oversee the development of performance evaluation criteria to guide decisions on how and for how long to allocate resources to research and development efforts. In addition to established DOD financial management regulations, DOD could use existing tools, such as the Investment Decision Support Tool, to help develop and implement these measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that annual program reviews by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) use a standardized template that includes, but is not limited to, cost, schedule, and technical performance. Programs not meeting these objectives are briefed to senior officers/officials in the Joint Coordination Integration Group, which decides whether to recommend termination of the program to the Joint NLW IPT. The use of a Program/Project Risk Matrix has been added to the standardized program review template to aid in identification, prioritization and management of key program risk areas, allowing for better informed resource allocation decisions. Program managers are required to brief a risk matrix during the annual program reviews. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in its role in overseeing DOD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the Secretary of Defense should require the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in consultation with the Executive Agent, to ensure that NLW strategic guidance that sets out goals, objectives, and a framework for research, development, and acquisition--including science and technology efforts--is established and routinely updated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD reported that, before each semi-annual meeting, the offices of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) and Policy would have the opportunity to review the program/budget proposals, topics, and issues that the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) presents to the Joint Coordination Integration Group and the Joint NLW Integrated Product Team (IPT). DOD stated that this would improve OSD oversight of the Joint NLW Program and allow the JNLWD to incorporate OSD guidance into program plans. In 2011, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) stated that, together with the JNLWD, it would continue to process updates to the Joint Services Memorandum of Agreement and the DOD NLW Capability Roadmap as needed. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help DOD better incorporate logistics and supportability considerations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the JNLWD, in consultation with the services and combatant commanders, to ensure that appropriate logistics and supportability planning is integrated into development efforts at the earliest possible stage, including both DOD-developed and commercial weapons and capabilities. Incorporating changes to--and using information already gathered for--the JNLWD's Investment Decision Support Tool might assist the directorate and DOD in establishing clear criteria and ensuring progress in this area.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In August 2009, DOD reported that in response to the recommendation, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) added a logistics "stop light" assessment chart to the annual Director's Reviews to track the status of the 10 Integrated Logistics Support elements during the development process. JNLWD reported that it has also hired a Logistics Management Specialist who is responsible for ensuring that Integrated Logistics Support requirements influence the design and development of non-lethal weapons. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help DOD better match program priorities to identified capability gaps, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), in consultation with the services and combatant commanders, to assess and document the extent to which NLW efforts at the technology development stage and beyond (including procurement and operations and maintenance) address the highest-priority Joint Staff-validated capability gaps.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that it recognized the value of mapping technology development programs to validated capability gaps and was developing a methodology for such a mapping in the revision of the Non-Lethal Weapon Capabilities Roadmap, and would incorporate this methodology into the Joint Non-Lethal Program management process. Since this report was issued, DOD has stated that 1) the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) has developed a methodology for mapping development programs to validated capability gaps and 2) this methodology serves as the foundation for JNLWD program investment priorities and decisions. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help DOD conduct more thorough testing and evaluation of non-lethal weapons and aid end users' ability to plan by knowing what to expect from NLW before using the weapon, the Secretary of Defense should direct the JNLWD and the military services to finalize and implement a risk assessment methodology for human effects testing of NLW and develop a timeline for implementing the methodology.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) developed human effects characteristics guidance, which DOD subsequently incorporated into DOD-wide non-lethal weapons guidance. DOD Instruction 3200.19, "Non-Lethal Weapons Human Effects Characterization," was issued on May 17, 2012. These actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Jul 30, 2014

    Jul 28, 2014

    Jul 17, 2014

    Jul 14, 2014

    Jul 11, 2014

    Jul 9, 2014

    Jul 8, 2014

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here