Mine Detection:

Army Detector's Ability to Find Low-Metal Mines Not Clearly Demonstrated

NSIAD-96-198: Published: Aug 28, 1996. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's development of a portable land mine detector, focusing on: (1) how the Army's AN/PSS-12 mine detector performed in detecting low-metallic mines in procurement tests; (2) the nature of the land mine threat in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and (3) the mine detector's potential effectiveness in Bosnia.

GAO found that: (1) the Army has not clearly demonstrated the ability of its AN/PSS-12 mine detector to detect low metallic mines; (2) the detector performed poorly during operational testing and failed to meet the Army's 92-percent detection requirement against low metallic mines; (3) although both candidate detectors performed equally well after the Army removed low metallic targets from the procurement tests, the Army selected the AN/PSS-12 because of its lower price; (4) the detector's field accuracy is questionable, since the Army did not sufficiently control other environmental and operating factors that can affect detector performance; (5) the detector's usefulness in Bosnia may be limited because about 75 percent of the buried mines have a low metallic content; (6) although the detector's reported performance in Bosnia is good, the Army has limited the detector's use there; (7) the Air Force has warned its personnel in Bosnia that the detector is not sufficiently sensitive to low metallic mines and some countries have switched to other mine detectors; and (8) the Army has reduced its reliance on the detector through alternative threat-reduction practices, such as extensive personnel training in mine awareness, avoiding or carefully selecting routes through suspected mine fields, and using heavy equipment to clear paths.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 1996, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition and Technology) (OUSD (A&T)) ordered an action plan. On March 31, 1997, OUSD (A&T) submitted a report to the Congress that charters, effective October 1, 1997, a Center of Excellence to, in part, establish standards for testing, modeling, and evaluating all Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) detection and clearance technologies. The Center's joint working groups are already in place and working on solutions. It also plans to prepare annual status reports for submission to the Congress. The Center has made progress, having created a standard test field and proposed a standard set of targets. The targets have yet to be accepted by all the members of the community as standards.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish and enforce realistic and consistent test standards for testing countermine and mine-detection systems that reflect known threat mines and the conditions under which they are likely to be encountered. Such standards should be applied not only to the acquisition of new systems, but to the evaluation of near-term or experimental solutions as well.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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