Defense Acquisitions:

Comprehensive Strategy Needed to Improve Ship Cruise Missile Defense

NSIAD-00-149: Published: Jul 11, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 2000.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) assessed the Navy's progress since 1996 in improving the self-defense capability of surface ships against cruise missiles; and (2) evaluated Navy plans for meeting future anti-cruise missile self-defense requirements.

GAO noted that: (1) although the Navy has made some progress in improving surface ship self-defense capabilities, most ships continue to have only limited capabilities against cruise missile threats; (2) a Navy assessment of current surface ship self-defense capabilities conducted in 1998 concluded that only the 12 Whidbey Island and Harpers Ferry class amphibious ships have or will be equipped with defensive systems that can provide measurable improvement against near- and mid-term cruise missile threats; (3) the assessment projected that none of the improvements the Navy plans to make in the future would provide any ship class a high level of self-defense capability against far-term threats; (4) in projecting ship self-defense capability improvement, the assessment assumed, among other things, that all planned improvements would be developed and fielded as scheduled; (5) GAO believes that the Navy assessment overstates the actual and projected capabilities of surface ships to protect themselves from cruise missiles because the models used in the assessment to determine capabilities include a number of optimistic assumptions that may not reflect the reality of normal fleet operations; (6) among these assumptions are perfect weather, uninterrupted equipment availability, and perfect crew and equipment performance at all times; (7) further, inadequate funding, maintenance, and repair parts support continue to limit the availability of existing self-defense equipment; (8) plans for meeting ship self-defense requirements are not promising because the Navy still does not have a comprehensive and consistent strategy for improving its capabilities; (9) previous plans have not included all affected ship classes, have not always established priorities among ship classes, have not consistently used a baseline from which to measure progress, and have not provided timelines for achieving the desired improvements; (10) although Navy leaders express concern about the vulnerability of surface ships, that concern may not be reflected in the budget for ship self-defense programs; and (11) from fiscal years 1997 to 2005, spending is relatively flat (fluctuating between $719 million and $1 billion) and associated research and development funding is projected to decline from about $517 million to about $218 million.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense signed a memo on July 31, 2000, directing the Navy to implement the recommendation in GAO's report. The Navy is expected to develop a comprehensive strategy for improving ship cruise missile defense and to address GAO's concerns on whether modeling assumptions used in performance assessments models reflect the reality of fleet operations.

    Recommendation: To provide a complete framework the Navy can use to identify and prioritize needed improvements to ship self-defense capabilities and to provide a baseline to measure and track its progress toward achieving these goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to develop a comprehensive strategy that clearly articulates priorities, establishes baselines, provides timelines, and defines resource requirements for achieving required capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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