Missile Defense:

Schedule for Navy Theater Wide Program Should Be Revised to Reduce Risk

NSIAD-00-121: Published: May 31, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 7, 2000.

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Robert E. Levin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Navy Theater Wide system, focusing on: (1) how the additional funding provided by Congress for the program in fiscal years (FY) 1997 through 1999 was used; and (2) whether significant risks to the program remain.

GAO noted that: (1) the Navy used the $663 million in increased funding as intended to reduce technical risks and develop system technologies earlier than originally planned; (2) about 41 percent was used for system design and analysis efforts, such as reducing the technical risks associated with improving the system's ability to differentiate intended targets from other objects; (3) about 20 percent of the funding was used for procuring hardware items, such as rocket motors and test interceptor missiles; (4) according to program officials, the additional funding also allowed the program to shift from a demonstration effort to an acquisition program in which a weapon system will be fully developed and produced; (5) although the Navy used this additional funding to reduce technical risk and develop the system sooner, significant technical and schedule risks still exist; (6) technological advancement is required to differentiate the target from other objects; (7) such discrimination requires that the system's computer network can process an enormous amount of data in real time; (8) this network has not been built, and its software must be integrated with the computer code that is already installed on each ship's computer system; (9) current activities include writing software, examining several computer architectures for the network, and building the capability to test the network; (10) technological advancement is also required in developing the capability of the interceptor missile to seek and destroy the target; (11) GAO is concerned that the program office has proposed a schedule calling for initial operational testing of the missile in 2010 even though 50 percent of the required 80 missiles would be produced and delivered by 2008 and 100 percent by 2010; (12) operational testing is designed to provide an independent evaluation of whether a system meets required performance levels prior to beginning production; (13) GAO has found that cost overruns and the deployment of substandard systems occur when the Department of Defense proceeds into production before systems are tested under operational conditions; (14) the Navy has scheduled up to 7 flight tests between July 2000 and September 2001; (15) according to testing officials, test programs typically separate flight tests by about 6 months; (16) a longer interval between tests gives officials better opportunities to evaluate test results, understand problems, and incorporate solutions into the next test; and (17) the approved level of funding does not match the Navy program office's estimate of how much it needs to implement the program on schedule.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has significantly restructured this program as part of its Ballistic Missile Defense System. The recommendation is no longer relevant.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risk of producing unproven missiles, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to revise the proposed funding profile and test schedule for the Navy Theater Wide program to ensure that the Navy conducts initial operational testing before producing most of the Block I missiles.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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