Missile Defense:

European Phased Adaptive Approach Acquisitions Face Synchronization, Transparency, and Accountability Challenges

GAO-11-179R: Published: Dec 21, 2010. Publicly Released: Dec 21, 2010.

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Cristina T. Chaplain
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This report formally transmits our briefing on acquisition management for the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). This is one of two products we are issuing in response to congressional October 13, 2009 request that we evaluate the Department of Defense's (DOD) plans for implementing EPAA. We provided congressional staff a draft copy of this briefing in a meeting with them on September 22, 2010. We do not make any recommendations in the briefing. We will issue a final report on broader issues of European missile defense that will include the material in the briefing. That final product will have recommendations, as appropriate. For the briefing we sought to answer two questions: (1) What key acquisition planning and management practices are in place for EPAA? (2) Are there near-term development risks for EPAA?

In response to changing threats in the region and new opportunities created by advances in missile defense technology, in September 2009 the President announced a new policy for missile defense of Europe, called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, or EPAA. DOD has emphasized the benefits of a policy of regional phased adaptive approaches, stating that it does not require a globally integrated missile defense architecture and that it relies on proven solutions. According to DOD, because EPAA is a policy, not a separate missile defense acquisition program, DOD intends to use the department's existing processes for managing missile defense acquisitions and the existing BMDS element-based acquisition approach for missile defense system elements---not one specific to EPAA--to approve system acquisitions. However, we found that DOD has not fully implemented a management process that synchronizes EPAA acquisition activities and ensures transparency and accountability. DOD has made progress in acquisition planning for technology development and systems engineering and testing and partial progress in defining requirements and identifying stakeholders but has not yet developed an EPAA acquisition decision schedule or an overall EPAA investment cost. The limited visibility into the costs and schedule for EPAA and the lack of some key acquisition management processes we found reflect the oversight challenges with the acquisition of missile defense capabilities that we have previously reported. The consequences of these issues have included: (1) limited means of independently assessing progress and a limited basis for oversight and (2) going into production before fully demonstrating system performance, leading to rework, cost increases, delays, and uncertainties about delivered capabilities. The flexibility desired by DOD is not incompatible with appropriate visibility into key aspects of acquisition management. As DOD proceeds with the EPAA acquisition activities, it is important for Congress and the President to have assurance that the EPAA policy is working as intended and that acquisition activities are cost-effective.

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