Defense Acquisition:

Comanche Program Objectives Need to Be Revised to More Achievable Levels

GAO-01-450: Published: Jun 7, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 2001.

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As of August 1, 1999, the Army's Comanche helicopter program faced significant risks related to cost overruns, scheduling delays, and degraded performance. GAO concluded that proceeding to the next development phase with high levels of uncertainty was not in accordance with best practices followed by successful commercial firms. This report evaluates changes since 1999 in the Comanche's cost, schedule, and performance, and assesses whether the Army will have the knowledge it needs to proceed with its current production plans. GAO found that the Comanche program's total development and production cost estimate has increased by almost $4.8 billion. However, areas of high technical risks and unfunded requirements could further increase the program's costs. The program office does not plan to update its April 2000 current estimate to reflect these increases until January 2003. The Comanche's December 2006 full rate production decision date has not changed even though the risks of not meeting this date have increased. The Army continues to face the risk that critical performance requirements may not be met--at least for the helicopters it will initially produce. The Department of Defense (DOD) recently provided $84 million in additional development funding to help reduce some of these high-risk areas. Additionally, the Army is not likely to have the knowledge it needs to begin production when scheduled. It is also not likely to know whether some technologies being developed, such as those used for the mission equipment package, will work on the helicopter and function as expected. DOD is also unlikely to know whether the helicopter can be produced within current cost estimates.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD acknowledged that it was examining whether any of the Comanche's requirements should be deferred, in order to reduce the risk of not meeting cost and schedule objectives. The Army has subsequently restructured the Comanche's baseline program. Approval of the restructured program is pending DOD's approval, which is currently scheduled for October 2002.

    Recommendation: To improve management oversight and direction and achieve more favorable program outcomes, the Secretary of the Army should reassess the program's cost, schedule, and performance objectives, and revise those objectives to more achievable levels prior to submitting its next fiscal year budget.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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