Most Critical Testing Still Lies Ahead for Missiles in Theater Nuclear Modernization

MASAD-81-15: Published: Mar 2, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1981.

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The Department of Defense is developing two missiles, the Army's Pershing II and the Air Force's Ground Launched Cruise Missile, as part of a program to modernize its theater nuclear forces in Europe. The two missiles are to provide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the capability to launch land-based theater nuclear missiles from Western Europe that can strike targets within the Soviet Union. GAO studied the progress being made in developing the missiles for eventual deployment in Europe.

The Army's schedule for developing and producing the initial quantities of Pershing II missiles contains a high degree of concurrency. Considerable subsystem and component testing has not surfaced any significant problems with Pershing II. However, the limited number of live firings held so far does not appear sufficient to indicate whether the system will be able to meet all of its performance objectives by the scheduled initial deployment date. The Ground Launched Cruise Missile contains many critical unknowns as it still must be tested in a realistic operational environment. The recent slip in the cruise missile's test schedule raises further concerns about the program. Since any modifications after deployment of the missiles could result in considerable cost, the two programs will bear close watching to assure that they perform satisfactorily before deployment begins.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of State and Defense should include in their annual presentations before the appropriate committees, and more frequently if critical events occur, details on the progress made towards achieving the planned modernizing and deployment of the theater nuclear weapons in the context of the December 12, 1979, decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of State and Defense should include in their annual presentations before the appropriate committees, and more frequently if critical events occur, details on the progress made towards achieving the planned modernizing and deployment of the theater nuclear weapons in the context of the December 12, 1979, decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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