Defense Acquisitions:

Improvements Needed in Military Space Systems' Planning and Education

NSIAD-00-81: Published: May 18, 2000. Publicly Released: May 18, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) approach to implementing the U.S. Space Command's long-range plan for expanding military space systems, focusing on the extent to which: (1) plans for expanding military space systems conform to national and defense space policies; (2) funding projections support planned military space programs and desired capabilities; and (3) actions are being taken to educate military personnel to support future military space operations.

GAO noted that: (1) the U.S. Space Command's long-range plan and the Air Force Space Command's supporting strategic master plan provide for the protection of U.S. national interests and investments in space, but they do not fully conform to DOD's new space policy; (2) the plans propose space systems only and do not provide for an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of terrestrial--land, sea, and air--systems as alternatives to space systems, which is called for in DOD's policy; (3) in addition, DOD lacks the modeling and simulation tools necessary to perform such assessments, a capability that is also called for in DOD's space policy; (4) it is unclear which DOD organization has the authority and capability to perform comparative assessments between space and terrestrial systems since such assessments are outside the purview of the U.S. and Air Force Space Commands; (5) these factors prevent DOD from being assured that the most cost-effective approaches will be considered in making decisions on the expansion of space systems; (6) the extent to which the Air Force's 18-year program projection supports planned military space programs and desired capabilities was unverifiable; (7) although several of the planned space systems, such as a space-based radar and a space-based laser, are included in the Air Force's program projection, cost estimates in the Air Force Space Command's strategic master plan were not directly traceable to the 18-year program funding projections; (8) Air Force Space Command representatives stated that they intend to institute changes to bring about consistency between the documents; (9) DOD has not given sufficient attention to providing military personnel with space education to support future military space operations; (10) DOD's new space policy requires that information about space force structure, missions, capabilities, and applications be incorporated into professional military education; (11) however, joint military doctrine on space operations that is necessary to implement the policy has not been issued because of disagreement among the services on the doctrine's content; (12) leaving the disagreement unresolved hinders common understanding for the use of space systems in military operations; and (13) until the doctrine is provided, DOD and military service educational institutions will lack guidance for the development of space education curricula and for determining whether existing curricula need to be modified.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The DOD maintains that this GAO recommendation is, at least in principle, already being fully implemented with the understanding that modeling and simulation efforts will continue to improve throughout the department. However, evidence in GAO's report states that analyses of terrestrial alternatives in long-range space planning have not been performed and that space plans are aimed at space system solutions only. GAO also found evidence that DOD lacked the necessary modeling and simulation tools to perform the trade-off analyses essential for making comparisons between space and terrestrial systems. In addition, although DOD stated that GAO's recommendation regarding the proper office to perform analyses of terrestrial alternatives is being implemented through existing departmental procedures within the acquisition management system, GAO is not convinced that DOD has fully addressed how proposed space systems would be assessed relative to land, sea, and air systems. In December 2003, DOD reported on the results of its Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) on the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Low. Although this AOA assessed the performance of infrared capabilities across land, air, and sea platforms, it did not evaluate the alternatives based on factors such as cost, schedule, risk, and technical challenges. In November 2003, the AOA that DOD completed on its Space-Based Radar (SBR) system, traded only space alternatives.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the most cost-effective decisions are made in regard to planning and programming for space systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence and, as appropriate, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to: (1) require that plans in support of space systems include analyses of estimated costs and potential effectiveness of plausible terrestrial--land, sea, and air--systems as alternatives for performing the identified space missions, functions, or tasks; and (2) establish the means to develop and employ the modeling and simulation tools necessary to perform comparative analyses of space and terrestrial systems. Because the military services can only analyze space and terrestrial systems that are within their organizational purview, the Secretary should also identify and establish the proper office, and provide the necessary authority, to perform such analyses for decisionmakers on a DOD-wide basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: After more than 11 years in development, DOD issued Joint Publication 3-14 (Joint Doctrine for Space Operations) on August 9, 2002. Regarding providing the necessary instructions to DOD and Military Service Colleges and schools for incorporating essential space information into professional military education curricula, DOD reviewed its Senior Service Schools in the Spring of 2000, and concluded that the National Reconnaissance Office and other space missions are largely integrated as part of broader related topics (i.e. intelligence, navigation, and communication etc.). Officials from the Office of the Joint Staff stated that the Service and National Schools adequately address space issues as appropriate for the mission of focus of those schools.

    Recommendation: To ensure that military personnel are adequately educated in the use of space systems for military operations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to: (1) address the delay in completing joint doctrine for space operations by resolving differences among the services and establishing a timeframe for issuance; and (2) provide the necessary instructions to DOD and military service colleges and schools for incorporating essential space information into their professional military education curricula.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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