Strategic Defense Initiative:

Changing Design and Technological Uncertainties Create Significant Risk

IMTEC-92-18: Published: Feb 19, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) impact of including or excluding space-based interceptor integration capabilities into the missile defense system architecture; (2) need for solidifying the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's (SDIO) system architecture; and (3) significant technological challenges that SDIO must overcome.

GAO found that: (1) although the goal of the Missile Defense Act of 1991 is to deploy a missile defense system to protect the United States and its allies against limited missile attacks, the act does not address whether integration capabilities for space-based interceptors should be included in the missile defense system architecture; (2) the act authorizes $465 million for space-based interceptor research and development; (3) SDIO is continuing its efforts to design the Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS) system to address the change in program focus from deterrance to protection, but it has not solidified GPALS architecture; (4) until SDIO solidifies GPALS architecture, there is an increased risk that its subsystems will be incompatible; (5) if SDIO includes integration capabilities for space-based interceptors into the missile defense system but never deploys them, it will incur unnecessary costs, but if SDIO does not include space-based interceptor capabilities in the missile defense system and the inclusion is later deemed necessary, costly reengineering will be required; (6) resolving technical challenges in the GPALS subsystem, Battle Management/Command, Control, and Communications (BM/C3), is essential to GPALS development; and (7) BM/C3 software may have to operate on parallel processors and will require a highly sophisticated software engineering and development environment that is not currently available.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Space-based interceptors are no longer in the GPALS architecture. Therefore, the recommendation no longer applies.

    Recommendation: Because of the design and cost implications of including or excluding integration capabilities for space-based interceptors in the missile defense system, the Secretary of Defense should provide Congress with an analysis of the design and cost implications of: (1) including integration capabilities for space-based interceptors in the architecture but never deploying them; and (2) excluding such integration capabilities from the architecture but incorporating space-based interceptors later.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The entire program and system have been reprioritized and changed; the recommendation is no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should develop an implementation plan for missile defenses. The details of this plan should be provided with the next Department of Defense (DOD) appropriation request for missile defenses and include, but not be limited to, a stable, well-defined missile defense system architecture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The entire program and system have been revamped by the new Secretary of Defense; the recommendations are no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should develop an implementation plan for missile defenses. The details of this plan should be provided with the next DOD appropriation request for missile defenses and include, but not limited to, a well-defined, integrated BM/C3 architecture sufficient in detail to provide the guidance and direction needed by developers to carry out their BM/C3 responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The entire program and system have been changed by the new Secretary of Defense; the recommendation is no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should develop an implementation plan for missile defenses. The details of this plan should be provided with the next DOD appropriation request for missile defenses and include, but not be limited to, a comprehensive BM/C3 technology plan describing reasonable technology availability schedules, plans for insertion of improved or advanced technologies as they become available, and contingency plans for dealing with situations when technologies are not available, including the ramifications of such contingencies on system performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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