Attack Warning:

Costs to Modernize NORAD's Computer System Significantly Understated

IMTEC-91-23: Published: Apr 10, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 1991.

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Samuel W. Bowlin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) and Air Force's efforts to upgrade the North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment System's computerized subsystems at Cheyenne Mountain, Wyoming, focusing on: (1) recent organizational changes for managing the Cheyenne Mountain Upgrade (CMU) program; and (2) whether the Air Force's $1.58-billion cost estimate for a mission-ready system was realistic.

GAO found that: (1) DOD and the Air Force made some organizational changes to increase CMU program management oversight, but had not appointed a single accountable manager for the total system; (2) DOD designated the program as a major system acquisition, but the resolution of system integration problems would still be impeded by the fragmentation of responsibilities; (3) in February 1990, the Air Force estimated the program's cost at $1.58 billion, but understated the estimate by at least $350 million; and (4) the Air Force deferred some subsystem requirements to keep the program within its short-term cost and schedule goals, which could significantly increase the duration and cost of system development.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD provided a special report to Congress to provide greater insight into CMU acquisition-related costs programmed for in the President's budget and the Future Year Defense Plan. These costs cover the incremental support needed to transition from current NORAD systems to the new CMU systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the total costs to develop and deliver a fully functional, mission-ready CMU system be reported to Congress in the next quarterly Selected Acquisition Report. These costs should include those for completing all requirements, testing and maintaining delivered portions of the system until a complete mission-ready system is operational, and correcting integration problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD submitted a special report to Congress which provided a summary of changes to cost, schedule, or performance requirements of the Cheyenne Mountain upgrade that have occurred since the September 1989 Defense Acquisition Board program review.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to assess the cost, schedule, and performance risks to the overall program from deferring subsystem requirements to later stages of system development, and report the results of this assessment to congressional appropriations and oversight committees.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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