Weapons Acquisitions:

Guided Weapon Plans Need to Be Reassessed

NSIAD-99-32: Published: Dec 9, 1998. Publicly Released: Dec 9, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Defense's (DOD) major guided weapon programs, focusing on whether: (1) the services' plans for developing or procuring guided weapons can be carried out as proposed within relatively fixed defense budgets; (2) the number of guided weapons the services plan to buy is consistent with projected threats and modernization needs; (3) the current and planned guided weapon programs duplicate or overlap each other; and (4) DOD is providing effective oversight in the development and procurement of deep attack weapons.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD's planned increase in procurement spending for guided weapons is based on overly optimistic funding projections; (2) to acquire all the guided weapons now planned over the next 10 years, DOD plans to spend more than twice as much as it has on average between fiscal years 1993 and 1997; (3) without an increase in overall defense spending, increased resources may not be available as expected; (4) for the past several years, DOD has been unable to increase its procurement budgets as planned, and other programs could more than absorb any available increases; (5) while DOD has enough deep attack weapons in its inventory today to meet national objectives, the services plan to add 158,800 additional guided weapons to the inventory; (6) each of the new weapons has been justified by the services on a case-by-case basis and is projected to provide significant advantages in accuracy, lethality, delivery vehicle safety, and control of unintended damage; (7) in calculating the number of weapons needed, the services use assumptions which overstate the potential threat and target base; (8) as a result, the quantity requirements for guided weapons appear to be inflated, particularly in today's budgetary and security environment; (9) when reviewing the services' planned programs in the aggregate, GAO found: (a) widespread overlap and duplication of guided weapon types and capabilities; (b) questionable quantities being procured for each target class; and (c) a preference for longer standoff and more accurate weapons when other options may be as effective and less costly; (10) in contrast, DOD's Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study and Quadrennial Defense Review suggested only minor changes in guided weapon programs and did not address possible instances of duplication and overlap; (11) GAO believes that DOD does not yet have a sound basis to ensure that it has the proper and cost-effective mix of deep attack weapon programs; (12) DOD's oversight of the services' guided weapons programs has not prevented inflated requirements or program overlap and duplication; (13) the central oversight bodies and mechanisms already in place do not address requirements and capabilities on an aggregate basis and have had a very limited effect on guided weapon programs; and (14) some DOD officials believe improved oversight is needed, and a proposal is under consideration to expand the purview of the Joint Tactical Air-To-Air Missile Office to include the coordination of air-to-ground weapon requirements and programs.

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, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force, should reevaluate the planned guided weapons acquisition programs in light of existing capabilities and the current budgetary and security environment to determine whether the procurement of all planned guided weapon types and quantities: (1) is necessary and cost-effective in the aggregate; and (2) can clearly be carried out as proposed within realistic long-term projections of procurement funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD commented that the proposed acquisitions were the culmination of the development of new weapons and that a lull in procurement is ending which will raise the level of procurement. DOD maintains that affordability is a key tenet in the coming procurements and cites the Cost as an Independent Variable initiatives for the Joint Standoff Weapon unitary variant and inclusion of cost as a key performance parameter for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff weapon as examples of their attention to affordability.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force, should reevaluate the assumptions used in guided weapon requirements determination processes to better reflect the new international situation, realistic target sets, enhanced weapon effectiveness, proper weapons selection, and the use of advanced tactics.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD commented that Pentagon oversight is adequate and cited the work of the Joint Requirement Oversight Council, the Milestone 0 Review, OSD oversight role, the Capabilities Based Munitions Process and the Planning, Programming and Budgeting System to demonstrate the Pentagon's oversight.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force, should establish an aggregate requirement for deep attack capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD commented that it had made significant progress in determining Deep Attack needs by involving the Commanders'-in-Chief and by looking at weapons mix problem from a joint perspective as in the Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study and the Capabilities Based Munitions Requirements Process. However, there is no provision for continuing the work started by the Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study and DOD officials stated that a planned deep attack follow-on study was cancelled.

    Recommendation: DOD's planned spending for guided weapons will escalate rapidly over the next few years, and key decisions will be made to start procurement to some very costly and unneeded guided weapons. Instead of continuing to start procurement programs that may not be executable as proposed, DOD should determine how much procurement funding can realistically be expected to be available for guided weapons over the long term and cost-effectively execute those programs within that level of funding. In doing so, DOD should also consider the already large inventory of guided weapons and the advances in technologies that are expected to increase the effectiveness of future weapons as well as the current and projected decline in threat.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its follow-up letter dated January 26, 1999, DOD commented that Pentagon oversight is adequate and that DOD would continue its efforts to improve. However, the response did not cite specific steps DOD would take to demonstrate its improvements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, should develop an assessment process that yields more comprehensive information on procurement requirements and aggregate capabilities in key mission areas such as deep attack. This can be done by broadening the current joint warfare capabilities assessment process or developing an alternative mechanism. One such alternative could be the establishment of a DOD-wide coordinating office to consider the services combines requirements, capabilities, and acquisition plans for deep attack weapons. This office could be modeled after the Joint Tactical Air-to-Air Missile Office.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although DOD indicated in its response that it planned to expand somewhat the role of the Joint Tactical Air-to-Air Office to include Air-to-Ground weapons, it indicated that the larger issues encompassed by the recommendation were not appropriate for consideration by an interservice office.

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