Joint Major System Acquisition by the Military Services:

An Elusive Strategy

NSIAD-84-22: Published: Dec 23, 1983. Publicly Released: Dec 23, 1983.

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GAO undertook a review to determine how the merger strategy has been working in the military services' joint major system acquisitions and to offer some guidelines for criteria in joint programs.

The first joint major system acquisition program was initiated in the 1960's, and a number of other joint programs have been formed or are still in development. However, specific criteria for choosing a joint program have yet to be established. GAO has found little communality in the joint program systems deployed and few satisfied services or documented savings. The major problem in establishing joint programs is getting the services to agree on joint requirements. The Department of Defense (DOD) has few formal processes to harmonize the mission needs of services, and GAO stated that system acquisition experts were pessimistic about joint acquisitions under present arrangements. Joint programs are intended to lessen budget problems and satisfy the needs of more than one user. Therefore, GAO offered the following guidelines which might help in selecting promising joint program candidates: (1) essential service doctrines should not be unduly compromised; (2) program development should not be so advanced that the programs are not malleable; (3) military effectiveness should not be unduly lessened; (4) the programs' potential for economy should be persuasive; and (5) there should be program support by Congress, the Secretary of Defense, top military officers, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with this recommendation. The date of action is not specified.

    Matter: Congress ought to be assured that the selection criteria have been applied for proposed new joint acquisition programs.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should require DOD to explain its plans to cope with the acquisition problems discussed in this report for the many joint programs underway.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: DOD should develop specific criteria for selecting joint programs. The guidelines suggested by GAO should be helpful in developing criteria. Future program mergers should be in accordance with such criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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