Weapon Performance:

Operational Test and Evaluation Can Contribute More to Decisionmaking

NSIAD-87-57: Published: Dec 23, 1986. Publicly Released: Feb 4, 1987.

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Michael E. Motley
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on operational test and evaluation (OT&E) as a means of testing weapon system performance, specifically: (1) its historical adequacy since 1970; and (2) its limitations concerning recently deployed major weapon systems.

GAO found that: (1) there were 32 historical cases where testing was unrealistic because it did not adequately replicate the operational environment; (2) the use of contractor support limited the realism of the test agency's OT&E results in its evaluation of aircraft effectiveness; (3) there were 25 historical cases where test objectives, criteria, and plans were incomplete, unclear, or absent; (4) OT&E personnel lacked clearly defined evaluation criteria; (5) test resources were limited or unavailable in 27 cases; (6) test reports in 22 cases did not provide the most current, complete, or accurate data on the performance of major systems before production; (7) the test report on the Multiple Launch Rocket System did not adequately describe the significance of a problem with the ammunition resupply trailer; and (8) the services frequently failed to operationally test a prototype before production.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 1990, GAO issued a report on the Department of Defense (DOD) OT&E Capability Improvement Program. GAO recommended that the services plan, program, and budget for test resources. By April 1991, GAO will issue a fact statement on the Central Test and Evaluation Investment Program. GAO will continue to evaluate DOD test resource needs in the future.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should enforce the requirement that operational testing: (1) be done in as operationally realistic an environment as possible; and (2) not be performed unless there are clearly stated test objectives and criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO has a continuing interest in the usefulness of OT&E results. In May 1990, GAO issued a report on the need for DOD to plan and conduct more timely OT&E. GAO will evaluate the DOD response to the May 1990 report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should improve the usefulness of OT&E results by the services' OT&E agencies by requiring the agencies to: (1) state whether OT&E demonstrated that the system met operational requirements; (2) discuss the operational effect of significant test limitations and adverse test results on system performance; and (3) clearly state whether a system is operationally suitable and effective.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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