Defense Acquisitions:

Need to Revise Acquisition Strategy to Reduce Risk for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile

NSIAD-00-75: Published: Apr 26, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2000.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's and the Navy's development of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and the recent extension of the program's development schedule, focusing on: (1) what the program's status is and what the causes of the schedule slip and cost increase were; and (2) whether the Air Force is following the most effective acquisition strategy to reduce the risk of cost growth and schedule delays.

GAO noted that: (1) since the program's inception, the development schedule has lengthened from 56 months to 78 months, and total program costs have increased from $1.6 billion to $2.1 billion; (2) in the most recent extension, approved in October 1999, the Air Force added 10 months to the missile's development schedule and increased estimated program costs by about $90.1 million; (3) factors leading to the schedule delay varied and included prime and subcontractor changes to missile design to: (a) correct problems discovered during testing; (b) decrease production costs; or (c) improve performance; (4) program officials stated that contractors underestimated the time and personnel required to design the missile and prepare for production; (5) the Air Force employed acquisition reform strategies, such as using technologies already proven in other systems and establishing a cost goal as an independent requirement, which helped reduce overall development time and costs; (6) as a result, the 78-month development program timeframe is substantially less than the historical average of 118 months for other missile programs; (7) also, the missile's production unit cost is projected to be well under the price limit; (8) however, the program is still vulnerable to significant cost increases and schedule delays because the design of some components is not yet stable; (9) further, the missile production prices within the JASSM contract are based on starting production by a specific date but without the adequate assurance that the missile will be ready for production by that date; (10) the Air Force will not have specific, detailed knowledge of the missile's ability to meet its performance requirements until after production is scheduled to start; and (11) also, there is much engineering and development work to be done to obtain full assurance that the production processes are under control and that the production line is producing the quality and volume of needed missiles.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially agreed with the recommendation and stated that they are working with the JASSM contractor to finalize the missile design and ensure that the design is ready to begin production and to support testing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Air Force to revise its acquisition strategy for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile program to link production decisions more closely to knowledge points. In revising its strategy, the Air Force should take steps to ensure that before beginning initial production: (1) the missile design is stable; (2) flight testing fully establishes the missile's ability to meet performance requirements; and (3) key manufacturing processes are under control so that the quality, volume, and cost of their output are proven and acceptable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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