Implications of Highly Sophisticated Weapon Systems on Military Capabilities

PSAD-80-61: Published: Jun 30, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1980.

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Many of the weapons systems developed by the United States today are viewed as being too technologically complex to permit a reasonable degree of confidence that they will work properly when needed. Consequently, the Nation's ability to be sufficiently prepared to sustain itself in a major war is of serious concern. Several problems that have resulted from the Department of Defense's (DOD) acquisitions during the 1970's include: (1) few weapons are available due to high unit cost; (2) weapons have reliability, availability, and maintainability problems; (3) small annual procurement quantities are economical; (4) high operating costs tax training resources; and (5) complexity and sophistication aggravate personnel problems. While DOD has tried to reverse this trend, it has not been as successful as desired. The operation and maintenance budget, portions of which are used to support deployed weapon systems, has increased substantially over the past few years; and it is expected to further increase in fiscal year 1981. However, the operations and maintenance budget supports so many activities that it is difficult to determine whether or not the projected increases will be sufficient to significantly improve readiness. The causes of any deficiencies in operations and maintenance funding is not totally clear. However, it seems that the services have chosen to develop a variety of high performance systems in lieu of seriously addressing the problems found in today's deployed systems.

High performance systems are costly. Those responsible for developing and acquiring new weapon systems must be just as concerned with the capability of the equipment when it is deployed as they were with the acquisition. Although some yet-to-be deployed systems designed in the mid-1970's are likely to exhibit many of the same problems occurring in the high performance weapons deployed today, recently developed systems should benefit from emphasis on reliability, availability, and maintainability, therefore presenting a brighter future. However, a reappraisal of some may be in order. As shown by recent directives, more attention should be paid in the early design of weapons to the best mix of high performance and support characteristics, considering expected force resources and operations. The DOD emphasis on lower cost weapon systems and greater reliability, although well placed, does not appear to have been sufficient. While established inventory objectives for new weapons are high, rapidly rising costs make it unlikely that they can be achieved without major increases in or realinement of the Defense budget.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Matter: Congress should carefully examine lower cost alternative programs before approving new weapon systems. In particular, the committees should explore with senior military officials the pros and cons of larger quantities of alternative weapons versus smaller numbers of highly sophisticated and expensive systems.

 

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