Separate Army and Air Force Airborne SINCGARS Programs May Be Uneconomical

NSIAD-85-50: Published: Jan 31, 1985. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1985.

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GAO reviewed the Army's and the Air Force's Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) development programs to determine: (1) why the original joint program was discontinued; and (2) if cost savings could be achieved by reestablishing a joint program. During its evaluation, GAO compared both services' airborne radio requirements, cost and schedule estimates, and acquisition plans.

In 1982, to provide the airborne communications capability to talk with ground units, the Army entered a joint development project led by the Air Force to develop an airborne VHF-AM/FM radio for use by both services. However, in 1983, the Army withdrew from the joint project because the Air Force development schedule would not support the Army's deployment schedule. The Army then began developing a VHF-FM radio based on the design of the ground radios. A comparison of both services' cost estimates revealed that the Army's unit procurement cost estimate was lower than the Air Force's estimate partly because of the commonality of components between the former's ground and airborne radios. Also, the Army procurement involved a larger production quantity, and its equipment did not include unique Air Force requirements, such as an AM band. Following discussions with the Department of Defense (DOD), Air Force, and Army officials, GAO determined that: (1) the Army's radio could be modified to meet Air Force requirements; (2) the Air Force's use of the radio would capitalize on the development already made by the Army; and (3) both services' use of a radio with common components would result in maintenance and support savings. GAO concluded that reestablishing the joint program to satisfy both Army and Air Force airborne VHF radio requirements appeared to be feasible and more economical than separate programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Proposals received by the Air Force were substantially more favorable that anticipated, thus, making continuation of separate programs feasible.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should evaluate the potential benefits of reestablishing a joint program to develop an airborne VHF radio to satisfy both Army and Air Force requirements. Unless the Air Force proposals unexpectedly include an offer that is clearly more favorable than the expected economies of a joint program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to terminate its separate program and enter into an agreement with the Army to develop modifications to its airborne radio to meet Air Force requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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