Special Operations Forces:

Army Plans Highly Concurrent Acquisition Strategy for Costly Helicopters

NSIAD-90-267: Published: Sep 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 29, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated cost, schedule, and test plans for the Army's special operations forces (SOF) helicopter program, focusing on: (1) the Army's planned concurrency of developmental and operational testing with actual production; and (2) current cost estimates for the program.

GAO found that: (1) although current acquisition policies and procedures called for developmental and operational testing prior to full-scale production, the Army planned initial production of 22 SOF helicopters concurrent with developmental testing; (2) the Army planned to produce and deliver 53 of the planned 74 SOF aircraft before conducting operational testing; (3) the Army planned to test and field SOF helicopters that did not possess all of the equipment necessary to satisfy operational capability requirements; (4) the Army identified risks involving avionics mission processor development, radar system certification, performance of government-furnished equipment, and retrofit costs, but did not address the risk associated with concurrent production and testing; and (5) program costs could greatly exceed current estimates due to the Army's exclusion of many costs in the estimates, future cost growth, and concurrent testing and production plans.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Due to the low numbers of helicopters involved, the Army believed the risk was manageable and cost to implement would be prohibitive.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to limit low-rate initial production to the minimum number of MH-47E and MH-60K helicopters necessary for operational testing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The low numbers of helicopters involved, 23 MH-60Ks and 34 MH-47E, make the risk manageable and the cost to implement prohibitive.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to postpone contract awards beyond low-rate initial production until the Army can demonstrate that the aircraft can meet the operational needs of the users through required operational testing and evaluation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Army believes it is including all costs of the SOF program in its estimates. The conversion of the CH-47C to the CH-47D is a separate program and should not be included in SOF program costs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and provide to Congress complete cost estimates that accurately reflect all costs to the government associated with acquiring fully equipped, mission-capable SOF helicopter systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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