Attack Warning:

Better Management Required to Resolve NORAD Integration Deficiencies

IMTEC-89-26: Published: Jul 7, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 1989.

Additional Materials:


Samuel W. Bowlin
(202) 512-6240


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's development and integration of five modernization programs for the data processing and communications components of the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment (TW/AA) system.

GAO found that: (1) after almost 8 years of development, no phase of the five modernization programs is operational; (2) the Air Force planned to spend more than $775 million through fiscal year 1989 on systems modernization, and estimated that it would need at least an additional $535 million and 5 more years to complete the modernization it initially planned to complete by 1987; (3) the Air Force's large, complex integration management structure fragmented management functions, responsibility, and accountability among numerous commands; (4) the Air Force's cumbersome and lengthy resolution process has not been able to resolve such critical integration problems as the use of different communications standards and attack scenarios among TW/AA subsystems; (5) those unresolved problems could disrupt the Air Force's ability to effectively integrate the modernized subsystems into TW/AA; (6) subsystem development and integration occurred amid constant management change, with frequent turnover among program managers, commanders, principal deputies, and command managers; and (7) the modernization programs established a pattern of deferring, rather than solving, the system development problems they identified. GAO believes that the Air Force's cost and schedule estimates for the modernization programs are questionable because long-standing, serious integration problems remain unresolved.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force has not designated a single manager below the Chief of Staff with accountability, responsibility, and authority for the TW/AA program. Further, an Air Force review team issued a report on July 24, 1990, that found that problems were more process-related than a result of the management structure. The Air Force has designated a system executive manager for the program.

    Recommendation: To encourage effective management over at least $535 million planned to be spent on the TW/AA system, the Secretary of Defense should restructure the roles and responsibilities of the key managers within the TW/AA executive management structure. The Secretary should designate a single manager, at a level below the Air Force Chief of Staff, with responsibility, authority, and accountability for the entire life cycle of the TW/AA system, from requirements through acquisition to operations and maintenance. The Secretary should further ensure that the designated system manager has control over the necessary budgetary and management resources to carry out his responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DAB memorandum has been finalized. The Air Force's Electric Systems Division (ESD) has a system in place to track the resolution of integration problems and quarterly program reviews with NORAD and ESD are improving program management.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the designated system manager to revalidate system requirements with the user for each modernization program. The Secretary should further direct the system manager to include in the congressionally mandated Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) management review the: (1) actions and timetable for resolving known system integration problems; (2) mechanism the manager intends to employ to improve continuity in program management; and (3) actions to identify and resolve future integration problems in a timely fashion.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 21, 2020

Oct 7, 2020

Oct 1, 2020

Sep 23, 2020

Aug 20, 2020

Aug 14, 2020

Aug 6, 2020

Jul 30, 2020

Jul 27, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here