Battlefield Automation:

Software Problems Hinder Development of the Army's Maneuver Control System

NSIAD-98-15: Published: Oct 16, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1997.

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GAO reviewed the Army's developmental and acquisition plans for the Maneuver Control System (MCS), focusing on whether: (1) the current MCS software development strategy is appropriate to overcome prior development problems; and (2) 207 new computers for MCS-related training should be procured as planned.

GAO noted that: (1) since its 1993 reorganization, the MCS has continued to experience development problems; (2) the initial operational test and evaluation of version 12.01 software has slipped 28 months, from November 1995 to March 1998, and interim tests have shown that significant software problems continue; (3) despite these problems, the Army awarded a contract in September 1996 for the concurrent development of the next software versions--12.1, 12.2, and 12.3--which are being developed by a new contractor and may involve substantially different software; (4) if the Army's current development strategy for the MCS is not strengthened, development problems may continue to occur; (5) currently, the Army's strategy allows: (a) less than full operational testing of version 12.1; and (b) development of follow-on versions 12.2 and 12.3 to start about 18 months before the operational testing of each version's predecessor; (6) despite the fact that the MCS has yet to undergo an initial operational test and evaluation or be approved for production, the Army plans to acquire 207 computers in fiscal years 1997 and 1998 to increase the number of computers available for system training; (7) program officials stated that they need to acquire the computers before operational testing to provide not only MCS specific training but also training for the larger Army Battle Command System, of which the Army Tactical Command and Control System and the MCS are major components; and (8) the 207 computers, however, are not needed to satisfy any of the three legislated reasons for low-rate initial production before an initial operational test and evaluation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on GAO's report, the Department of Defense (DOD) responded that the MCS development contract contains acceptance criteria (pass/fail criteria) for each of the three MCS versions to be developed under that five year contract. DOD stated that the Army would test each version against those criteria to ensure system maturity and determine continued operational effectiveness and suitability. DOD also stated that it would not support further contract awards until issues identified in those tests were resolved, but declined to specifically direct the Army as called for in the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to set specific required capabilities for each software version beyond version 12.01, test those versions against specific pass/fail criteria for those capabilities, and award further development contracts once problems highlighted in that testing are resolved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it will determine a risk level for MCS version 12.1 software following MCS version 12.01's completion of its initial operational test and evaluation. Based on the assigned risk level, DOD has stated that it will then determine the level of testing that is needed for MCS version 12.1 software. MCS version 12.01 underwent initial operational test and evaluation and failed. As a result, DOT&E is now requiring that MCS version 12.1 undergo a full initial operational test and evaluation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to perform a full operational test and evaluation of MCS software version 12.1 to ensure that it provides the full capabilities of version 12.01.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it had directed the Army to not procure or field more MCS hardware for operational units until MCS had completed required testing and a production decision had been made. This action was only partially responsive to the recommendation, as it would have allowed the Army to proceed with a planned procurement of MCS computers for training purposed. However, based on GAO's review and in line with this recommendation, GAO provided congressional staff and committees information on a potential reduction in the Army's fiscal year 1998 budget request and a potential rescission of fiscal year 1997 funds. As a result, Congress reduced the Army's fiscal year 1998 MCS funding by $15.699 million and rescinded $6 million from its 1997 funding. As a result of the DOD and congressional actions, this recommendation has been fully implemented.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to procure additional MCS computers only after an initial operational test and evaluation and a full-rate production decision have been completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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