National Defense:

Schedule Best Practices Provide Opportunity to Enhance Missile Defense Agency Accountability and Program Execution

GAO-12-720R: Published: Jul 19, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 2012.

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Cristina T. Chaplain
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What GAO Found

Based on our analysis, none of the five MDA schedules we reviewed fully met all nine of the schedule best practices, including the practice of capturing all activities. The schedules were inconsistent in meeting best practices, and some had major deficiencies. These results are significant because a reliable schedule is one key factor that indicates a program is likely to achieve its planned outcomes. Our analysis suggests that estimated time frames and costs of these programs are either not reliable or the program is missing information that could make it more efficient. The MDA schedule results are similar to those of other agencies that GAO has analyzed. We are recommending actions that would better ensure compliance with schedule best practices for the five programs reviewed as well as for the long-term MDA program. The Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with our recommendations.

Why GAO Did This Study

During the course of our annual assessment of the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) ongoing cost, schedule, testing and performance progress for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), we performed a detailed analysis comparing the schedules for five MDA programs—the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA, Aegis Ashore, Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS), and the Targets and Countermeasures Extended Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (eMRBM) target—to best practices GAO has identified for schedule development. We did not report on this detailed analysis, which has implications for transparency and accountability of MDA programs, in the April 2012 review; instead, we are providing in this report (1) the results of how the MDA program schedules compare to the nine best practices and (2) a summary of how these MDA program results compare to the results of analysis GAO has conducted of program schedules in other agencies. During our review, management officials for the MDA programs we reviewed expressed a willingness to learn from best practices for scheduling and identified steps they were already taking to address deficiencies we identified. We selected the five MDA programs based on recent congressional interest, program budget and trends, program phase, value to other programs or GAO work, and program variety. Four of the five programs we reviewed had schedules owned and maintained by contractors rather than by the government. Of the five programs we selected, only Aegis Ashore, which does not have a prime contractor, maintained a government schedule. In addition, we were unable to conduct the analysis on GMD’s prime contract due to technical difficulties with the software used to maintain the program schedule and therefore, selected a different GMD contract that includes an upcoming flight test and post-test analysis for this program. Finally, PTSS was in early stages of development at the time of our review, which affected the program’s ability to develop its schedule.

For more information, contact Cristina Chaplain at (202) 512-4841 or chaplainc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and setout to develop an overarching MDA Schedule Policy Memorandum signed by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director directing all programs to improve their compliance with the schedule best practices and to capture evolving processes and procedures aimed at integrating an automated schedule tool. A draft of this policy was prepared with an anticipated final release date of March 2014. However, we have not had the opportunity to review the draft or final policy or determine whether or not the policy has been implemented. Although the Aegis Ashore and Extended Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (eMRBM) programs have taken actions to improve their compliance with schedule best practices as outlined in GAO's Schedule Assessment Guide, we have not yet received sufficient evidence showing that the remaining three programs identified as having scheduling shortfalls have improved their scheduling practices. Since MDA proposed cancelling the Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS) in the President's fiscal year 2014 budget request issued in April 2013, we do not expect MDA to take actions to improve the program's schedule. However, we will continue to monitor MDA's progress to determine if any actions are taken to improve the scheduling practices of the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA and Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) programs.

    Recommendation: To improve the transparency and needed accountability over the BMDS over the near and long term, the Director of MDA should, for the near term, direct the SM-3 Block IIA, Aegis Ashore, GMD, PTSS, and eMRBM programs to improve their compliance with the schedule best practices as outlined in GAO's Schedule Assessment Guide.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Missile Defense Agency

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation. According to officials at the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), MDA is developing an internal policy to improve compliance with schedule best practices as outlined in GAO's Schedule Assessment Guide. As of the time of this update, the MDA drafted the policy and anticipated that the final version would be completed in March 2014. However, we have not had an opportunity to review the draft or final versions of this policy or determine whether or not it has been implemented. We will continue to monitor MDA's progress in creating and implementing this policy and assess its contents to ensure that it is aligned with GAO's schedule best practices.

    Recommendation: To improve the transparency and needed accountability over the BMDS over the near and long term, the Director of MDA should, for the long term, develop a plan, including direction to program offices to develop and maintain integrated master schedules that reflect both government and contractor activities, to ensure that best practices are applied to those schedules as outlined in GAO's Schedule Assessment Guide.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Missile Defense Agency

 

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