U.S. Participation in the United Kingdom's Development of JP-233--A Costly Deviation From Acquisition Policy

MASAD-81-17: Published: Feb 27, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1981.

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A review was undertaken of the JP-233 Low-Altitude Airfield Attack System as part of an annual review of selected major weapon systems. The objective of the review was to examine U.S. participation in this United Kingdom development effort including how well the Department of Defense (DOD) had defined its requirements and assessed alternative solutions. The purpose of JP-233 was to reduce the sortie generation capability of Warsaw Pact Air Forces by damaging runways and other operating surfaces and impeding efforts to repair them. Initial participation by the United States began in August 1976 under the foreign weapons evaluation program. Joint definition and development efforts continued until December 1980 at which time the United States gave notice of its intent to terminate its involvement in the program's development.

GAO found that DOD participation in the JP-233 development did not follow the prescribed acquisition strategy which requires initial project definition and continued formal oversight at key decision points. DOD committed the United States to paying half the development cost of JP-233 without formal analyses of mission requirements, current capabilities, needs, and alternative solutions. As a result, the United States was formally committed to developing a weapon with an ally without the assurance that it would either accomplish the U.S. mission or that it was the best alternative. By December 1980, DOD had spent about $109 million and is now negotiating termination costs which may exceed $25 million.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require high-level reviews for any costly weapon. These reviews should assure that the chosen system (1) has demonstrated performance through realistic operational tests, (2) is the best alternative among the candidates, and (3) is capable of performing its mission, either alone or in concert with other planned systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should limit funding requests for airfield attack weapons to only those levels needed to validate the various technologies as a basis for system comparisons and that the restriction apply until the Secretary of the Air Force completes the mission analysis and you certify the mission contribution of proposed weapon solutions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to specifically define the requirements for the airfield attack mission to provide a basis for identifying and comparing alternative weapons and delivery modes. These comparisons should specifically take into account (1) delivery aircraft sortie availability and attrition for weapons that require deep penetration of enemy territory and (2) the cost and benefits of using pretargeted, surface-to-surface missiles, and other standoff weapons.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should assure that mission requirements, capabilities, and needs are well defined before committing significant resources for either U.S. or allied weapons development or procurement. Such assurance is particularly critical before making international commitments from which the United States cannot unilaterally withdraw without some difficulty.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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