Computer Technology:

Air Attack Warning System Cannot Process All Radar Track Data

IMTEC-91-15: Published: May 13, 1991. Publicly Released: May 13, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the capability of the AN/FYQ-93 (Q-93) computer used to process Atmospheric Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment (Atmospheric TW/AA) data for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), focusing on the Air Force's plans to integrate upgraded and new radars into the system.

GAO found that: (1) the Q-93 architecture provided limited expansion capabilities to accommodate changing processing work loads and requirements; (2) Air Force studies identified serious problems with Q-93 memory available to process and store aircraft tracks generated from planned radar sources; (3) the Air Force did not adequately analyze Q-93 capacity and performance capabilities or establish a formal capacity management and performance monitoring program; (4) the Department of Defense (DOD) did not manage the components of the Atmospheric TW/AA system from a system-level perspective; (5) although DOD spent almost $3 billion to acquire planned radar upgrades and additions for Atmospheric TW/AA and counter-narcotics missions, it did not resolve how the work load generated by those radars would be effectively processed and forwarded to decision makers; and (6) NORAD processing of DOD counternarcotics mission data was duplicative and placed an unnecessary burden on Q-93.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force recently drafted a program management directive entitled "Upgrade ROC/SOC Computer," and is in the concept phase of this draft PMD, looking at present and future threats and its existing capability in terms of hardware and software, resources, etc. This information will be used for looking at alternatives to best meet the nation's atmospheric attack warning and assessment needs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should review the radar and data processing capabilities and requirements for its Atmospheric TW/AA system and implement a comprehensive computer capacity and performance management program. Using the results of this program, DOD should establish an appropriate radar and data processing architecture that can effectively accomplish its current mission and be expanded to meet future needs. In developing this architecture, DOD should: (1) validate current and planned radar data processing requirements; (2) identify a range of alternatives for processing the current and planned work loads, including alternatives based on a modern, flexible, and expandable architecture; (3) select the most advantageous alternative, using criteria including flexibility, to meet expanding requirements and life-cycle costs; and (4) ensure that, in the future, the impact of upgrading or adding radars to the Atmospheric TW/AA system, including the impact on the processing component, is fully evaluated and approved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD does not concur with this recommendation and will continue to use the Q-93 to process counter-narcotics radar data, duplicating efforts of the Customs Service.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should discontinue using Q-93 to receive, process, and display counter-narcotics radar data, which duplicates that processed by the Customs Service.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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