Defense Acquisitions:

Comanche Program Cost, Schedule, and Performance Status

NSIAD-99-146: Published: Aug 24, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's Comanche Helicopter Program, focusing on: (1) the risks in the Army's restructured plans for developing and testing the Comanche; (2) the changes in the Comanche's performance capabilities and requirements; (3) cost estimates for development; and (4) the Comanche's impact on the Army's overall aviation modernization efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) the Comanche's restructured program contains significant risks of cost overruns, schedule delays, and degraded performance because it would: (a) begin the engineering and manufacturing development phase before some key mission equipment technologies have matured and have been integrated into the flight-test aircraft; (b) compress the flight-test schedule, increasing the amount of concurrent developmental and operational testing; and (c) begin production before initial operational testing starts, resulting in concurrency between development testing and initial production; (2) the program is proceeding to the next development phase with high levels of uncertainty; (3) successful commercial firms generally do not proceed into product development and production with such high levels of uncertainty; (4) the Army is proposing changes to the aircraft that would adversely impact some of the Comanche's planned performance capabilities; (5) while their exact impact is unknown, these changes will increase the risk that the Comanche's planned performance goals will not be achieved; (6) the Army acknowledges that it will not achieve its goal of executing the Comanche's restructured development program within its funding estimate of about $4.4 billion for fiscal years 1999 through 2006; (7) an analysis by the Department of Defense's Cost Analysis Improvement Group in November 1998 found that total program costs would be about $150 million (3.4 percent) higher than the Army's estimate; (8) the Group also believes that insufficient near-term funding could lead to a 6-12 month schedule delay, which could add between $275 million and $425 million to the program's overall development costs; (9) further, the Army's accelerated technology development and testing plans increase the risk of additional schedule delays and cost increases; (10) the Army continues to single out the Comanche as the centerpiece of its aviation modernization plan; (11) the Comanche program would absorb an increasingly larger share of the Army's total aviation budget and would account for about 64 percent of the budget in fiscal year 2008; (12) according to the Army, its modernization plan provides the best balance between capabilities and resources; (13) the plan recognizes that because of funding constraints, some program modernization requirements must be traded off; and (14) as a result, older helicopters will have to be retained longer than originally planned, some helicopter upgrades will be foregone, and lower quantities of some helicopters will have to be procured.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reevaluate the Army's decisions to: (1) accelerate the Comanche program's Milestone II; and (2) implement a development program with high concurrency. The reevaluation should demonstrate how the Army specifically plans to minimize the risk associated with the technology being developed for inclusion in the mission equipment package prior to the Milestone II decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reevaluate the Army's decisions to: (1) accelerate the Comanche program's Milestone II; and (2) implement a development program with high concurrency. The reevaluation should demonstrate how the Army specifically plans to ensure that major mission equipment package systems can be successfully integrated and tested in the Comanche in order to meet developmental and operational test schedule requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the Secretary of the Army, before the Milestone II decision, to evaluate and report on the extent to which increased operational requirements and weight growth would impact key performance capabilities, such as stealth and maneuverability, and how the Army intends to manage the program's cost and schedule to accommodate any adverse impacts, if found.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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