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: Open

    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. 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. In February 2012, while the Secretary's guidance was still in draft, the DOD Inspector General reported to us that that previous guidance, approved in 2010, contained the end states, strategic assumptions, and contingency planning that we'd recommended. However, we have been unable to corroborate DOD's assertion about the 2010 guidance, nor have we been able to determine whether either the 2012 or 2014 revisions to the Guidance for the Employment of the Force identify specific end states for fielding the European Phased Adaptive Approach. Until we are able to corroborate DOD's assertions, or otherwise confirm that DOD has taken other actions to implement this recommendation, we will hold it open.

    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: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, but stated 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, on February 25, 2014, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics sent a letter to Representative Turner, Senator Sessions, and to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittees on Strategic Forces and Readiness, to convey to them an independent cost assessment for the European Phased Adaptive Approach that had been prepared by the Director of the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation in October 2012. The cost assessment 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. We believe that this undertaking is a positive step towards implementing our recommendation, however, as we learned during related work resulting in a report issued in April 2014 (GAO-14-314), DOD had to make many assumptions to prepare the 2012 estimate, which limits utility. We also have not seen evidence that DOD has used the estimate as we recommended, nor have we seen evidence that it has been updated to take into account changes to the European Phased Adaptive Approach since 2012. Therefore we will continue to leave this recommendation open until DOD takes additional actions to implement it.

    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: Open

    Comments: 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 requirement are appropriately detained and synchronized with the broader program schedule. Through other ongoing work, we have learned that the Missile Defense Agency may have taken steps to prepare an integrated schedule for the next phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, but the Missile Defense Agency has not responded to our request for clarification. The extent to which the Missile Defense Agency has coordinated this schedule with the Army, Navy, and other stakeholders regarding the non-materiel aspects of the European Phased Adaptive Approach is also uncertain. Therefore, we will continue to hold this recommendation open, pending additional details.

    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: Open

    Comments: 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. In August 2014, U.S. Strategic Command officials told us that it and U.S. European Command are developing high level operational metrics for determining the operational capabilities for the next phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, including metrics for durability and effectiveness. However, the officials stated that this was incomplete. Further, our review of U.S. Strategic Command's criteria for determining the operational effectiveness of the ballistic missile defense system, has not been updated since September 2012 and does not include operational metrics for the next phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. We will continue to leave this recommendation open until DOD shows further progress in approving and publishing these metrics.

    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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