Review of the Battlefield Exploitation and Target Acquisition System

LCD-80-38: Published: Mar 3, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 1980.

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The Subcommittee on Defense requested that GAO provide information on the Battlefield Exploitation and Target Acquisition (BETA) project for forthcoming hearings on the Department of Defense's (DOD) fiscal year 1981 budget. The BETA project is a high risk, joint service effort to develop an experimental test bed for automated collection, analysis, correlation, and dissemination of tactical intelligence data. It was established in 1977 to demonstrate the feasibility and combat utility of prompt coupling of data from target acquisition sensors into tactical combat situation displays and firepower systems. In January 1978, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) established a $46.5 million funding ceiling through fiscal year 1980 to accomplish project objectives. Costs were estimated at $88.2 million through fiscal year 1984 to achieve the original objective which includes $29.4 million for future development after a planned 1980 demonstration. Experience with the BETA test bed is expected to provide technology transfer benefits to service fusion centers, to be developed in the near future. Currently, the contractor has completed a limited demonstration of test bed communications capability. Full system integration tests and an operator training phase are planned prior to the planned demonstration in Europe later this year. Development plans, changes in test bed functional requirements provided to the contractor, and the status of software development have been reviewed to identify problems which might hinder the achievement of project goals. Considerable difficulty has been encountered in developing a BETA test bed with even minimal capability.

Changes in system specifications have shown that the automation level has been reduced in the test bed being developed for the 1980 demonstration. The current test bed configuration, Bare Bones BETA, is designed for automated correlation of sensor data inputs. However, some of the automated functions needed to use the intelligence data have been eliminated and now must be performed manually. The test bed will not be stressed at wartime loads during the forthcoming demonstration. While the deletion of the division correlation center is a major loss in planned capability, the project director feels that the Bare Bones configuration is worth testing since it provides a capability not currently existing. Cost growth and schedule slippage were attributed to contractor difficulty in understanding functional requirements initially, obtaining experienced computer programmers, and obtaining hardware and software from subcontractors. Presently, project officials cannot guarantee participation in the planned European demonstration due to high risk problems which remain and uncertainty over the software development schedule. In view of these difficulties, the Subcommittee may wish to consider the following options before authorizing any additional funds for BETA: terminate the BETA project after the Bare Bones system tests are completed; delay the project about 1 year and make additional funding conditional on conducting a more comprehensive field test; and approve no funds for future test bed development until complete test results are available on the Bare Bones configuration.

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