Combat Air Power:

Joint Mission Assessments Could Enhance Investment Decisions

T-NSIAD-97-105: Published: Mar 5, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1997.

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GAO discussed the combat air power capabilities of the United States, focusing on: (1) joint warfighting requirements; (2) the aggregate capabilities of U.S. combat air power forces to meet those requirements; and (3) the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to place greater emphasis on joint considerations in program and budget decisions.

GAO noted that: (1) the United States possesses a larger inventory of modern high-performance fighter and attack aircraft than any other country; (2) the capabilities of these aircraft continue to be enhanced through key improvements in the aircraft, the weapons they use, and the targeting information they are provided; (3) conversely, the air defense forces of potential adversaries have not been substantially improved and, for the foreseeable future, are not likely to pose a serious threat to U.S. air power's successful execution of its missions; (4) long-range bombers and missiles and attack helicopters are increasingly supplementing fighter and attack aircraft in providing the capability to attack ground targets; (5) the result is an extensive inventory of capabilities to accomplish many of the same missions; (6) yet, the services are modifying current systems and developing new systems at substantial costs, even though they have not compared aggregate capabilities with joint mission needs; (7) comprehensive assessments of requirements and capabilities from a joint mission perspective would aid the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to carry out his responsibilities as the senior military advisor to the Secretary of Defense on the requirements, programs, and budgets of the military services; and (8) while progress has been made in achieving a stronger joint orientation in DOD, ongoing cross-service mission studies should allow DOD to identify unnecessary duplications in capabilities and make difficult program tradeoff decisions so defense resources can be used more efficiently.

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