Embedded Computer Systems:

Significant Software Problems on C-17 Must Be Addressed

IMTEC-92-48: Published: May 7, 1992. Publicly Released: May 7, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the Air Force's management of software development on the C-17 aircraft; and (2) software problems that have increased program risks.

GAO found that: (1) at the start of the full-scale engineering development effort, the Air Force did not completely identify C-17 software development requirements or determine how difficult it would be to develop and integrate sophisticated software subsystems; (2) the Air Force did not ensure that the contractor's software development and management capabilities were adequate and underestimated software development risks; (3) to meet the September 1991 first-flight schedule, the Air Force allowed the contractor to take shortcuts that have increased the risk of not completing software and development testing and when the developmental C-17 aircraft first flew it contained only 66 percent of the newly developed software needed to make the aircraft avionics fully functional; (4) as of March 1, 1992, the C-17 development program was 2 years behind schedule and was $1.5 billion over its 1985 cost estimate of $4.1 billion; (5) despite the contractor's lack of software experience, the C-17 contract gave the contractor total control over software development, limited the Air Force's access to software cost, schedule, and performance information, and restricted the Air Force from correcting critical software problems when they became evident; (6) the Air Force has allowed the contractor to develop C-17 software in a diverse assortment of languages that may prevent the Air Force from upgrading, testing, and maintaining C-17 computer systems; (7) Congress has reduced the C-17 production schedule and fiscal year (FY) 1992 funding until flight of the first production C-17, and has prohibited FY 1993 funding obligations until delivery of the fifth production aircraft; and (8) Congress has directed the Department of Defense to assess C-17 mission capabilities scheduled to be completed in late 1992, but believes that further assessment is needed to minimize software development risks.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with this recommendation and assessed the impact of software defects on the C-17 operational flight test program. DOd stated, however, that OSD/OT&E should not determine how to mitigate software risk.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should expand C-17 assessment to evaluate the impact of software risks on the C-17 development and flight test program and determine how the Air Force intends to mitigate those risks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSD assessed C-17 software support documentation as part of its Early Operational Assessment. Also, San Antonio ALC and Air Force OT&E are evaluating existing software documentation and McDonnell Douglas is taking actions to provide other required documents.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should expand C-17 assessment to evaluate the Air Force's plans to ensure that software support documentation is adequately prepared and approved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD disagreed that assessing the future use of Ada should be part of its C-17 Early Operational Assessment. DOD stated that Air Force policy on the use of Ada is sufficient. The policy is clear; however, implementation has been inconsistent.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should expand C-17 assessment to assess the Air Force's strategy for evaluating the merits of converting software to Ada when major software modifications are made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD assessed the impact of limited computer capacity on the C-17 and future maintenance costs on its C-17 Early Operational Assessment. Consequently, McDonnell Douglas is making design changes to meet reserve memory and processing requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should expand C-17 assessment to determine ways to reduce the impact of limited computer capacity on long-term maintenance costs of the C-17.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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