'SARs'--Defense Department Reports That Should Provide More Information to the Congress

PSAD-80-37: Published: May 9, 1980. Publicly Released: May 9, 1980.

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Selected acquisition reports (SAR's) have become the key recurring summary reports on the progress of the Department of Defense's (DOD) most costly acquisition programs. SAR's are usually prepared for about 50 major weapon systems and are used by both Congress and top-level DOD managers in making decisions affecting those systems. However, important information which would be useful to management and which is called for by DOD Instructions is not being reported. GAO has continually worked with DOD and with congressional committees to improve SAR's.

GAO believes that SAR's should provide a full and objective disclosure of the status of major systems. DOD must make the SAR's short enough to be usable by people who have little time to review them, and yet the SAR's should present data that is complete, accurate, and not misleading. Although DOD may not want to include some of the information being recommended for inclusion because it detracts from an optimistic presentation of system capabilities, it is the kind of data that Congress needs to have in reviewing and funding programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should revise the SAR instruction, where necessary, and enforce the instruction so that SAR's include: (1) a mission capability assessment statement, including expected shortcomings and limitations of the system in its operational environment; (2) the status of key subsystems and related systems, including related systems on separate SAR's; (3) planning estimates with a one-time explanation for changes to arrive at the development estimates; (4) ranges of costs for the planning and development cost estimates rather than specific point estimates; (5) more complete explanations for changes to development estimates and, in subsequent SAR's, a reference to the original development estimates; (6) a section on operational and technical risks; (7) logistic support/additional procurement costs and explanations for changes; (8) a chart showing the impact on the program acquisition cost estimate of using different escalation rates; and (9) a certification of the credibility of SAR's by the Secretary of Defense. In addition, the Secretary of Defense should direct that a periodic review be made of the accuracy and completeness of SAR's and that greater consideration be given to (1) adding important systems in advanced development to the reporting system, and (2) deleting older systems from the reporting.

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