Combat Air Power:

Joint Mission Assessments Needed Before Making Program and Budget Decisions

NSIAD-96-177: Published: Sep 20, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) plans to modernize its combat air capabilities, focusing on whether DOD has sufficient information from a joint perspective to: (1) prioritize its air power programs; (2) objectively weigh the merits of new program investments; and (3) decide whether existing programs should receive continued funding.

GAO found that: (1) although DOD believes that its modernization plans are affordable, it faces a major challenge in attempting to fund the services' air modernization programs; (2) DOD has not sufficiently assessed joint mission requirements or compared these requirements to the services' aggregate capabilities; (3) DOD is proceeding with some major air modernization programs without clear evidence that the programs are justified; (4) the services plan to acquire numerous advanced weapons systems over the next 15 to 20 years to enhance their interdiction capabilities despite the availability of viable, less costly alternatives; (5) reductions in combat aircraft inventories have been largely offset by improvements in night-fighting and targeting capabilities and increases in advanced long-range missile inventories; (6) although potential adversaries possess capabilities that could threaten U.S. air power, the severity of these threats appears to be limited; and (7) DOD has taken steps to enhance information on joint combat requirements, but these efforts have had little impact in identifying duplication in existing air combat capabilities.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should develop an assessment process that yields more comprehensive information in key mission areas. This can be done by broadening the current joint warfare capabilities assessment process or developing an alternative mechanism.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD believes that its existing processes, such as the Planning-Programming-Budgeting System, provide adequate information to the Secretary of Defense to make decisions on combat air power programs. The department agrees that the analytical support for overall decisionmaking can be improved and has been investing resources into the development of a new model that will simulate joint warfighting. DOD also believes its Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study (DAWMS) provided a review of the joint air power capabilities of the services to do not only the deep attack mission, but other missions as well. DOD also believes that the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) represented a joint department-wide review of all mission areas, including combat air power missions.

    Recommendation: To enhance the effectiveness of these assessments, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should decide how best to provide analytical support to the assessment teams to ensure staff continuity, and allow the teams latitude to examine the full range of air power issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD believes its existing processes, such as the Planning-Programming-Budgeting System, provide adequate information to the Secretary of Defense to make decisions on combat air power programs. The department agrees that the analytical support for overall decisionmaking can be improved and has been investing resources into the development of a new model that will simulate joint warfighting. DOD also believes its DAWMS provided a review of the joint air power capabilities of the services to do not only the deep attack mission, but other missions as well. DOD also believes that the QDR represented a joint department-wide review of all mission areas, including combat air power missions.

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