GAO Position on Several Issues Pertaining to Air Force Consolidated Space Operations Center Development

MASAD-82-45: Published: Aug 12, 1982. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information regarding Air Force computer acquisition plans for the Consolidated Space Operations Center (CSOC). Specifically, the information concerned: (1) sole-source implications of the Air Force's duplicating National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) software; (2) implications of Air Force computer system acquisition based on prior audit experience; (3) potential benefits from using the Ada software language; and (4) a summarization of the factors supporting the position that construction of the Shuttle Operations and Planning Complex (SOPC) portion of the CSOC should be deferred until SOPC planning is completed.

GAO found that the sole-source procurement approach to duplicate NASA software could force life-cycle costs higher than a broader procurement due to the limiting nature of software languages written expressly for one type of processor. Audit experience over the past decade has indicated that the weaknesses in the Air Force computer system development projects result from: (1) a lack of adequate consideration of user-functional requirements; (2) an emphasis on using old software rather than developing new, efficient systems; and (3) newly developed systems which fail to reflect state-of-the-art technology. GAO believes that use of the standard high-level Ada language is economically justified and would result in benefits, such as: high system reliability, reduced software maintenance costs, enhanced real-time processing capability, manufacturer independence, and reduced life-cycle costs. GAO concluded that development of the SOPC should be deferred because: (1) there is no overall plan for the military exploitation of space that defines the role of military shuttle missions; (2) planning is still in the formative stages and has not been adequately articulated; and (3) the Air Force position that there is a need for the program is questionable.

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