Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment System

Published: Sep 26, 1985. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 1985.

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Testimony was given on computer problems that have been found with the Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment System which is intended to provide leaders with a timely and accurate warning in the event of a nuclear attack. Several false warnings triggered the system 4 years ago and, since that time, efforts have been made to find the cause of these problems and to provide solutions for them. The problems were found to be the result of a malfunctioning hardware chip and lax test procedures. GAO found that: (1) the system still uses incompatible computers; (2) an uninterruptible power supply will not be available at the central command center until November 1985; and (3) redundant systems have been provided to correct possible system failures. Although the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) has addressed system problems which have caused the reporting of false events, the false events have not stopped. Congress has recommended quarterly reports on the status of system modernization efforts, but GAO found no evidence that reports were being submitted. GAO found that: (1) NORAD computers and other command computers do not process data identically; (2) system components are becoming increasingly obsolete creating maintenance problems; (3) software changes are difficult due to the lack of a separation of system functions; and (4) regional control center computers still have inadequate computer capacity and lack operational display consoles and adequate redundancy. Finally, GAO found that state of the art computer equipment will not be ready until 1992 at the earliest.

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