Sergeant York:

Concerns About the Army's Accelerated Acquisition Strategy

NSIAD-86-89: Published: May 30, 1986. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the Army's unique accelerated acquisition strategy for the Sergeant York weapon and its suitability for use in future programs; (2) the protection against cost growth offered in the warranty contract's provision, particularly regarding technical performance problems; and (3) the weapon's achievements in specific areas during testing.

The accelerated strategy's objective was to field the weapon as quickly as possible with a substantial cost savings. The Army scheduled less pre-production testing than normal to accelerate deployment, resulting in a lack of critical information about shortcomings in the weapon's ability to perform under battlefield conditions. In addition, surveillance over the weapon's early production was limited. The Army successfully controlled costs until contract termination, which suggests that the use of the fixed-price development contract and the three annual fixed-price production contract options were cost-effective. The contract's warranty provisions provided protection against cost increases emanating from defects in the design, component integration, materials, or workmanship. However, the fixed-price options did have a drawback because they put pressure on decisionmakers to proceed with production on schedule, despite technical difficulties, in order to take advantage of the favorable prices. Tight schedules and limited operational testing left the Army few opportunities to resolve the difficulties before committing to major production. GAO believes that the Army should continue trying to reduce the time it takes to develop and field new weapons, as long as performance is not adversely affected.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No actions will occur on this program because it was terminated. The Department of Defense (DOD) application of similar strategies on future weapons will be assessed in individual GAO reviews of those programs. GAO will pursue this issue in its reviews of new acquisition programs, including the Forward Area Air Defense System, which is to replace the Sergeant York program.

    Recommendation: When the Army considers the application of the accelerated acquisition strategy to the Sergeant York program for future programs, the Secretary of Defense should require the Army to make an initial assessment of the technical risks involved in individual subsystems, as well as in the integration of those subsystems into one system, with an explicit focus on whether the technology being attempted is compatible with an accelerated acquisition strategy. Built into the strategy should be provisions for adjusting schedules and other program facets if technical difficulties occur.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No actions will occur on this program because it was terminated. DOD application of similar strategies on future weapons will be assessed in individual GAO reviews of those programs. GAO will pursue this issue in its reviews of new acquisition programs, including the Forward Area Defense System, which is to replace the Sergeant York program.

    Recommendation: When the Army considers the application of the accelerated acquisition strategy to the Sergeant York program for future programs, the Secretary of Defense should require the Army to assess the weapon's technological progress periodically to see if it is still compatible with the planned acquisition. If technical progress is no longer keeping pace with the acceleration, the strategy should be adjusted to bring it in line with the technology.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No actions will occur on this program because it was terminated. DOD application of similar strategies on future weapons will be assessed in individual GAO reviews of those programs. GAO will pursue this issue in its reviews of new acqusition programs, including the Forward Area Air Defense System, which is to replace the Sergeant York program.

    Recommendation: When the Army considers the application of the accelerated acquisition strategy to the Sergeant York program for future programs, the Secretary of Defense should require the Army to ensure that the strategy provides for testing and evaluation sufficient to identify suitability and effectiveness, which have to be resolved before the initial production is approved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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