Embedded Computers:

Navy's Approach to Developing Patrol Aircraft Avionics System Too Risky

IMTEC-90-79: Published: Sep 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 4, 1990.

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Samuel W. Bowlin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether the: (1) Navy's Update IV Program provided for adequate pre-procurement testing of a new avionics computer system for P-3 and P-7 aircraft; and (2) Navy adequately oversaw the development of the embedded system.

GAO found that the Navy: (1) originally planned to thoroughly test the avionics system before buying more than four; (2) citing program delays, revised those plans and postponed complete testing; (3) allowed the Update IV contractor to develop software before it completed and approved subsystem specifications; (4) had approved only 3 of 93 software specifications, and projected that it would not approve all specifications before September 1990; (5) Update IV contractor was over a year late in developing two software integration laboratories for testing the system's acoustic and nonacoustic capabilities; (6) planned to buy 28 systems before it successfully completed all testing; (7) planned to test one of the system's processors using a model that did not accurately represent the final version; (8) failed to conduct any detailed analysis to support its belief that any further delays would cause it to miss fixed-price contract option deadlines and increase contract costs; and (9) failed to consider the costs of buying 28 systems that may not work as intended and may require expensive modifications. GAO also found that Update IV Program oversight authorities: (1) focused on the use of computer technology; and (2) have not granted final approval of the Navy's acquisition and testing plans.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The fiscal year (FY) 1991 appropriations bill reduced procurement funding for the P-3 aircraft by $68 million, in part due to the GAO report and subsequent congressional action. An accomplishment report will be prepared once FY 1992 congressional budget actions are complete. The expected completion date is November 1991.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, to: (1) halt further software development (i.e., coding) until system specifications are approved; (2) thoroughly justify the need for initial-rate production to exceed the four systems originally planned; (3) conduct initial operational testing using actual system components or accurate simulations of them; and (4) conduct full operational testing before making a full-rate production decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of April 1, 1992, the fate of the Update IV Program was still being debated; however, the recommendation has been overtaken by events since Congress has completed its FY 1992 budget deliberations.

    Recommendation: In light of the possibility that the previous recommendation may preclude the Navy from exercising existing, fixed-price contract options, the Secretary of the Navy should direct the Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, to thoroughly analyze the cost impact of contract renegotiation and, based on this analysis, decide whether the entire Update IV Program is financially viable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy


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