Better Software Planning Needed at the Air Force's Global Weather Central

AFMD-81-24: Published: Feb 24, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 1, 1981.

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Walter L. Anderson
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As part of a long-range program to improve the computer-based capabilities of the Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC), the Department of the Air Force insists that a series of sole-source procurements of general purpose computers in the present manufacturer's product line are in the Government's best interest. The Air Force believes that, by avoiding the competitive process, it can save $30 million and minimize the technical risks associated with changing vendors. It wants to continue to do so until 1985 despite repeated General Services Administration (GSA) efforts to persuade it to use competitive procurement.

GAO found that the decisions to retain and convert software were not based on life-cycle analyses or projected costs of the individual software components such as the weather models, database manipulation system, and applications programs. GAO believes that much of the software may be obsolete or approaching obsolescence. In addition, the remaining life cycles for individual software components should have been projected, costed, and operationally and technically assessed for effectiveness into the late 1980's and documented to provide the basis for management procurement decisions. GAO found no life-cycle documentation for software which indicated that management considered the potential operational, technical, or financial benefits of competitive alternatives that included redesign, enhancement, replacement, or sharing of software. GAO believes that the Air Force's present sole-source efforts may be more costly than a competitive acquisition. Management's failure to insist on compliance with Federal policies that would have reduced the AFGWC technical dependence on the current manufacturer's product has resulted in undue pressures to remain with the manufacturer. GAO does not think that $30 million is a valid estimate of the savings that can result from a sole-source procurement. Therefore, GAO does not believe that the Air Force has properly justified its plans to repeatedly upgrade the AFGWC general purpose computers on a sole-source basis.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the General Services Administration should require the Air Force to provide: (1) documentation for each significant software component in the current software inventory; (2) plans for new software for the period 1982-1992; (3) estimated costs and technical criteria that will be used to reduce dependence on the present manufacturer; (4) a long-range plan of the software sharing arrangements that it will propose and/or implement with other Federal agencies; and (5) a comparative analysis that shows estimates of the technical, financial, and operational advantages and disadvantages of sole-source and competitive acquisition over the life cycles of both the hardware and software.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration


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