Testing and Maintenance of Weapon Systems May Be Enhanced by the Design for Testability Concept

MASAD-82-38: Published: Aug 6, 1982. Publicly Released: Aug 6, 1982.

Additional Materials:


Donald E. Day
(202) 275-8408


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

GAO reviewed the use of the design for testability concept in the development and acquisition of major weapon systems. The design for testability concept is an attempt to solve some of the current problems associated with weapon systems after they are deployed. Previous attempts to solve weapon system testing and maintenance problems have had mixed results.

GAO found that, under the sponsorship of the Joint Logistic Commanders Panel on Automatic Testing, the services are laying the groundwork to develop and implement the design for testability concept without determining its benefits and limitations. Design guides for testability as well as for new military standards defining its use are being prepared, but no effort is being made to ensure that the benefits of the concept outweigh the cost of implementation. The Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Division and the Naval Surface Weapons Center have management responsibility for most of the testability efforts. They have awarded contracts to industry to conduct most of the research. The goal is to implement the design for testability concept as early as possible. The Army has not played a major role in the Joint Logistic Commanders' design for testability program due to a lack of funds. However, the Army has done limited research in improving testability in nonelectronic systems. Although the development and implementation of the design for testability concept has progressed to the point where design guides are being prepared and issued, no serious effort has been made to demonstrate that its benefits will exceed costs, if implemented.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the services to determine if the benefits of the design for testability concept exceed its limitations before it is fully implemented within the Department of Defense and made a part of the weapon system acquisition process. This could be done by: (1) establishing a database to identify testability cost and the affect on reliability, availability, and maintainability; and (2) prototyping a system designed for testability and comparing it to a similar system developed using standard design techniques.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Dec 2, 2020

Nov 20, 2020

Nov 19, 2020

Nov 18, 2020

Nov 5, 2020

Oct 29, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here