National Defense:

F/A-18E/F Aircraft Production Decision Should Be Postponed

NSIAD-97-106R: Published: Mar 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1997.

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GAO suggested that the Department of Defense (DOD) postpone the low-rate initial production decision on the F/A-18E/F, currently scheduled for March 28, 1997, until the Quadrennial Defense Review and a congressionally-mandated study comparing the cost and combat operational effectiveness of the F/A-18E/F with those of the F/A-18C/D aircraft have been completed and fully evaluated.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO is concerned that DOD plans to make the low-rate initial production decision for the F/A-18E/F prior to submitting the required cost-benefit analyses to the Congress for its consideration; (2) GAO views the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997's and the appropriations conference report's reporting mandates as clear evidence of the Congress' desire that a valid cost-benefit comparison of the F/A-18C/D and E/F aircraft support a production decision for the F/A-18E/F aircraft; (3) the desire for congressional input about such a decision is also clear from the authorization act's limitation on obligations and expenditures until after the required DOD report is received by the congressional defense committees; (4) consequently, DOD's current plan to decide on F/A-18E/F production before the reports are due to the Congress prevents possible congressional input based on a review of the required analyses; and (5) in addition, the completion and evaluation of the Quadrennial Defense Review could have a major impact on DOD's tactical aircraft modernization plans.

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