Ballistic Missile Defense:

DOD Needs to Address Planning and Implementation Challenges for Future Capabilities in Europe

GAO-11-220: Published: Jan 26, 2011. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 2011.

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In September 2009, the President announced a revised approach for ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Europe. The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) is designed to defend against existing and near-term ballistic missile threats and build up defenses over four phases as threats mature and new BMD technologies become available. Although the approach will include capabilities such as radars and landand sea-based BMD assets, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not yet established EPAA life-cycle costs. EPAA is DOD's first implementation of its new, regional approach to BMD. GAO was asked to evaluate DOD's plans for implementing EPAA. GAO reviewed the extent to which: (1) DOD has developed guidance and addressed management of cost and schedule for EPAA, and (2) DOD planning for EPAA is informed by operational performance data. GAO reviewed key legislation, policy and guidance, and initial plans for implementation and asset allocation.

DOD has initiated multiple simultaneous efforts to implement EPAA but faces three key management challenges--the lack of clear guidance, life-cycle cost estimates, and a fully integrated schedule--which may result in inefficient planning and execution, limited oversight, and increased cost and performance risks. Since the September 2009 announcement of EPAA, stakeholders throughout DOD--including U.S. European Command, the Missile Defense Agency, and the military services--as well as the State Department, have taken steps to implement this policy, including considering options for the deployment of assets, requesting forces, preparing for testing, and analyzing infrastructure needs. However, effective planning requires clear guidance regarding desired end states and key BMD stakeholders, including the combatant commands and military services, believe that such guidance is not yet in place for EPAA. Further, key principles for preparing cost estimates state that complete and credible estimates are important to support preparation of budget submissions over the short-term as well as to assess long-term affordability. DOD has not developed EPAA life-cycle cost estimates because it considers EPAA an adaptive approach that will change over time. However, best practices for cost estimating include methods for developing valid cost estimates even with such uncertainties. These estimates could serve as a basis for DOD to assess its goal of fielding affordable and cost-effective ballistic missile defenses as well as determine if corrective actions are needed. Finally, the EPAA phase schedule is not fully integrated with acquisition, infrastructure, and personnel activities that will need to be synchronized. As a result, DOD is at risk of incurring schedule slips, decreased performance, and increased cost as it implements the phases of EPAA. DOD also faces planning challenges for EPAA because DOD has not yet established key operational performance metrics that would provide the combatant commands with needed visibility into the operational capabilities and limitations of the BMD system they intend to employ. DOD is incorporating some combatant commands' requirements into BMD testing, in part, by having U.S. European Command participate in the test design process. However, the system's desired performance is not yet defined using operationally relevant quantifiable metrics, such as how long and how well it can defend. The combatant commands are attempting to define operational performance metrics to enable credible assessment of operational performance gaps. However, these metrics have yet to be finalized and implemented. Without a more complete understanding of BMD operational capabilities and limitations, the combatant commands face potential risk in EPAA operational planning. GAO recommends that DOD provide guidance on EPAA end states; develop EPAA life-cycle cost estimates; and integrate its phase schedule with acquisition, infrastructure, and personnel activities. GAO also recommends that DOD adopt operational performance metrics and include them in the BMD test program. DOD generally concurred with GAO's recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred to this recommendation in comments on our report, stating it recognized the need to provide policy guidance on the decision to pursue a European Phased Adaptive Approach. In its comments on our draft report, DOD stated that the guidance GAO recommended would be in the 2012 update to Guidance for the Employment of the Force, then awaiting the Secretary of Defense's signature. Since that time, DOD affirmed in writing to us that it completed action in response to our recommendation when the Secretary of Defense signed the 2010-2012 Guidance for the Employment of the Force on April 9, 2011. We have asked DOD to corroborate this statement by providing us language from the 2012 Guidance for the Employment of the Force, or from subsequent revisions, that provide guidance for the specific end states, strategic assumptions, and contingency planning for the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as we'd recommended. DOD has not provided us with such documentation despite repeated requests, most recently in July 2015. As a result we are unable to close this recommendation as implemented.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide guidance on EPAA that describes desired EPAA end states in response to concerns raised by key stakeholders.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We are closing this recommendation as implemented. DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, stating that it intended to develop specific life cycle cost estimates for the radars, interceptors, and related systems that make up the larger, integrated European Phased Adaptive Approach rather than an estimate for the broader, integrated system. However, since our report was issued, the Director of the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation prepared and later updated an independent cost assessment for the European Phased Adaptive Approach. The initial assessment was prepared in October 2012, and provided to congressional committees on February 25, 2014. It included equipment development, procurement, military construction, and operations and support costs through 2040 for the European Phased Adaptive Approach as it was conceived at that time. In response to congressional committee report language, DOD subsequently provided an updated assessment to Congress in June 2015. The updated estimate was prepared following the administration's decision to cancel the fourth phase of the approach, including the development of a more advanced Navy Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor (type IIB) that would have been deployed both afloat and in Poland and Romania under the original plan. DOD stated in both estimates that the results were highly uncertain, particularly given the stability, or lack thereof, associated with the Missile Defense Agency's plan. However, given congressional interest in receiving an updated estimate, we believe that the cost estimate contributes to oversight of the program by providing a cost basis for evaluating the European Phased Adaptive Approach and determining whether these plans are affordable and whether corrective actions are needed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Missile Defense Executive Board to oversee and coordinate the development of life-cycle cost estimates that would provide for the management and oversight of EPAA and allow the department to assess whether its plans for EPAA are affordable and determine if corrective actions are needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: We are unable to close this recommendation as implemented. DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, stating that the Missile Defense Agency uses an integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System schedule for the emerging European Phased Adaptive Approach requirements, and that in doing so the Missile Defense Agency ensures these requirements are appropriately detained and synchronized with the broader program schedule. In June 2015 DOD provided to us a summary of the Missile Defense Agency's progress on delivering an integrated ballistic missile defense capability for European Phased Adaptive Approach for Phases 2 and 3, which looks out to fiscal year 2019. As DOD indicated in its comments, the schedule for Phases 2 and 3 are placed in the context of the broader schedule for delivering ballistic missile defense capabilities (for example, for homeland defense). However, the schedule does not provide the details to show that DOD has integrated the delivery schedule with efforts to prepare the infrastructure or personnel needed for ballistic missile defense operations. Until DOD does so, DOD will have a limited capacity to identify implementation risks.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Missile Defense Executive Board to oversee and coordinate the development of an integrated EPAA schedule to include acquisition, infrastructure, and personnel activities that would help identify EPAA implementation risks that need to be considered.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We are closing this recommendation as implemented. DOD fully concurred with this recommendation, stating that the Missile Defense Agency would factor in the combatant commands' operationally defined metrics when it determined whether its developmental and testing metrics were achievable, and whether these metrics met the commands' operational requirements. According to DOD officials, U.S. Strategic Command's metrics for assessing the operational effectiveness of ballistic missile defense elements and systems are intended to be general enough to be applied to all such capabilities, including all phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. DOD added that U.S. Strategic Command's metrics, which were last published in 2012, are to be reviewed in fiscal year 2016 to determine if a revision is needed to ensure they remain accurate and relevant in assessing future capabilities. However, in September 2014 U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. European Command finalized and distributed key operational capability criteria for Phase II of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which address the deficiencies we identified in our report by specifying the system's expected performance against threats projected by the intelligence community. The criteria also establish durability requirements for operating the system, as well as physical protection standards. DOD added that U.S. Strategic Command, the Navy and Missile Defense Agency are working to incorporate these criteria into the U.S. Strategic Command's warfighter acceptance process. As a result, we believe these efforts show substantial progress on the part of DOD to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct U.S. Strategic Command, in coordination with the Missile Defense Agency, to adopt BMD operational performance metrics for durability and effectiveness and include these metrics into the BMD test programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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