Adoption of Preplanned Product Improvement Techniques Can Reduce Cost of Improving Effectiveness of Systems During Their Lifetime

MASAD-81-39: Published: Aug 13, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1981.

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GAO surveyed Department of Defense (DOD) plans for modifying major weapon platforms to identify ways of reducing the time for fielding modified systems, reducing their costs, and increasing their level of operational readiness.

Preplanned product improvement can help maximize long-term weapon platform effectiveness and concurrently enable DOD to keep pace with advances in technology and changes in the threat. The Deputy Secretary of Defense has directed DOD activities to appoint organizational focal points to evaluate all ongoing and recently fielded weapons for potential preplanned product improvement applications. GAO supports this initiative and believes that it promises to enhance the acquisition process. Preplanned product improvement is a systematic acquisition strategy in which evolutionary improvements of existing systems during their useful life are planned and facilitated through the use of designs to accommodate future changes and improvements. Preplanning proposes a stepped requirements process in which a product using current technology is fielded sooner to help counter the existing threat. The initial design should allow for future improvements, and anticipated improvements should be communicated to the entire defense industry. Preplanned product improvement may require additional funding in the early years for design and development costs. However, this should lower costs in later years when improvements are actually made. The overall technical risk should be minimized by preplanning since risk taking will be concentrated in areas with the greatest expected payoff both in the initial and in the subsequent upgrades. Developing procedures for implementing preplanned product improvement is an important key to its success.

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