Defense Acquisitions:

Military Services Consistently Held Required Configuration Steering Boards That Actively Reviewed Requirements Changes

GAO-14-466R: Published: May 5, 2014. Publicly Released: May 5, 2014.

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Michael J. Sullivan
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What GAO Found

In 2013, the military services held a Configuration Steering Board (CSB) to review requirements or technical configuration changes for 77 of 79 current major defense acquisition programs required to hold one by statute, approximately 97 percent. Major defense acquisition programs are those programs whose estimates exceed certain statutory dollar values as adjusted by the Department of Defense (DOD). The Army and Air Force held meetings for all of their programs, while the Navy did not hold a CSB for two of its programs because the program either had just started development or had its review rescheduled in an effort to reduce costs. We also found that the services combined these boards for similar programs or held them in combination with other reviews, although the Navy held some CSB meetings without officials from the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense in attendance. Any changes were to be sent to these officials after the meeting for their approval, according to the Navy.

Based on information the military services were able to provide on 65 of the 77 programs that held a CSB in 2013, the boards actively reviewed and approved requirements or technical configuration changes proposed by eight programs. The boards approved requirements decreases or deferrals for four of the programs, requirements increases for two programs, and both requirements increases and decreases for two programs. The remaining 57 programs, that the military services provided information on, did not propose any changes to the board. However, we found that four programs changed requirements in 2013, without presenting the changes to the CSB for review or approval. In all four instances, the programs deferred, decreased, or modified their requirements. 

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD established CSBs in 2007 as a measure to control requirements changes and associated cost increases on its major defense acquisition programs. These boards are a forum for senior acquisition, funding, and requirement leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and the military services to review proposed changes to program requirements or system configurations that have the potential to adversely affect program cost or schedule. The Senate Report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 mandated GAO to review DOD’s implementation of the CSB process. This report examines the extent to which (1) the military services have held CSBs, and (2) CSBs were approving requirements changes that could impact cost and schedule outcomes.

To conduct this work, GAO identified 79 current major defense acquisition programs that were required to hold CSBs in 2013. GAO examined minutes, briefing slides, and other documentation related to CSB meetings to determine when the meetings were held; whether requirements and technical configuration increases or decreases were proposed; and if the boards approved the changes. For 12 Navy programs that conducted a CSB in 2013, GAO was unable to determine if requirements and technical configuration changes were proposed to and approved by the board, because the Navy was unable to provide appropriate documentation for these programs. GAO also interviewed officials from the Joint Staff, and acquisition and requirements organizations regarding the services’ use of CSBs. Finally, GAO used information gathered from its latest annual weapon acquisition assessment to determine if programs were changing requirements without the approval of a CSB. GAO assessed program responses to a standard set of questions and identified programs that reported requirements changes in fiscal year 2013. GAO interviewed program officials to determine whether these requirements changes were presented to the CSB for review.

What GAO Recommends 

GAO is not making any recommendations.

For more information, contact Michael J. Sullivan at 202-512-4841 or

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