DOD Instruction 5000.5X, Standard Instruction Set Architectures for Embedded Computers

MASAD-82-16: Published: Jan 27, 1982. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1982.

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Acting on a congressional request, GAO reviewed Department of Defense (DOD) plans to implement proposed DOD Instruction 5000.5X, a plan to curtail high costs resulting from support costs in the field. The proposed instruction would limit the number of architectures used for computer hardware and software design and development and would require ownership of standard architectures for military-embedded computers.

Evaluation of the proposed instruction raised some serious issues that challenged its validity in the timeframe of the 1980's. Some of the more salient points for consideration were that: (1) aggressive pursuit of a standard high-order language could alleviate the software proliferation problem; (2) recent advances in computer technology have reduced the need for extensive support; (3) improved competition using militarized versions of commercial computers will open up competition to many firms that would not bid on specifications with DOD-owned architectures; (4) DOD ownership of architectures would seriously inhibit competition and therefore DOD would run the risk of getting locked into obsolete architectures; (5) architecture standardization would inhibit the efficient utilization of the new DOD programming language Ada and it will not be able to fully capitalize on the anticipated software cost savings Ada was designed to yield. GAO concluded that DOD could accomplish its objectives more effectively through exploitation of advances made with high-order language standardization and related hardware technology. Implementation of Instruction 5000.5X would preclude the DOD ability to make use of current and anticipated advances in software and related hardware technology.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should not implement Instruction 5000.5X.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to reevaluate their ongoing efforts and demonstrate why they are more cost effective than standardizing on a high-order language such as Ada and relying on the computer industry to provide the stimulus for computer architectural innovations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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