DOD Embedded Computers:

Better Focus on This Technology Could Benefit Billion Dollar Weapons Programs

IMTEC-90-34: Published: Apr 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Office of the Secretary of Defense's (OSD) process for overseeing and controlling the use of embedded computer resources in Department of Defense (DOD) weapons systems and automated information systems.

GAO found that: (1) between 1976 and 1987, OSD established various committees, groups, and councils for oversight of embedded computer resources; (2) in response to internal criticism regarding the effectiveness of the committee-management approach, OSD assigned responsibility for reviewing major weapons systems to the Defense Acquisition Board in 1987; (3) case studies of the Board's review of three weapons systems indicated that embedded resources were not a discrete area of focus at any level in the review process; and (4) there was no OSD entity responsible for addressing embedded computer resources issues. GAO also found that DOD, in the process of examining its oversight and management approach over the development of computer systems: (1) announced plans for establishing an executive-level group to review procedures for overseeing software development; (2) temporarily reorganized the Major Automated Information System Review Committee (MAISRC), previously a separate review body for major automated information systems, as a Board committee, although it was unclear whether DOD would expand MAISRC review authority to include embedded computer resources; (3) proposed revising a computer resource management directive to require the appointment of a senior DOD official to be responsible for oversight of weapons' embedded computer resources; and (4) is developing a software master plan to improve overall review and management of software development. GAO believes that DOD needs to explore better ways to ensure that embedded computer resources, particularly software, receive focused management attention throughout all phases of weapons systems development, since such resources are critical to the effective function of costly weapons systems.

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