Strategic Defense Initiative:

Need to Examine Concurrency in Development of Brilliant Pebbles

NSIAD-91-154: Published: Mar 27, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's (SDIO) program for developing Brilliant Pebbles, the space-based weapons system for the Phase I Strategic Defense System.

GAO found that: (1) the SDIO full-scale development program was highly concurrent with the Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) test program; (2) the concurrency would result in SDIO paying contractors to improve a design concept before LLNL fully demonstrated that the concept worked; (3) the primary objective of the LLNL test program was to demonstrate the technical feasibility of the space-based weapons system before making a full-scale development and deployment decision; (4) the first flight test did not achieve all its objectives due to a mechanical failure, resulting in a 10-month delay of the test schedule; (5) the current test schedule could not be compressed any further, and if delayed another 4 months, would not be completed by the summer 1993 deadline; (6) the cost estimate for a Phase I Strategic Defense System decreased from $69.1 billion to $55.3 billion due to substituting the new space-based system for the dated space-based interceptor; and (7) a matter for congressional consideration included in the classified report may no longer be relevant, due to the revised schedule.