Antisubmarine Warfare:

Tactical Surveillance Sonobuoy and Related Software Need to Be Tested Together

NSIAD-91-41: Published: Jan 9, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 1991.

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Martin M. Ferber
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GAO reviewed the Navy's revised acquisition strategy for the Tactical Surveillance Sonobuoy Program for developing sonobuoys to detect noises radiating from submarines and transit information by radio to aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) in 1988, the Navy revised its original acquisition strategy to include low-rate initial production of sonobuoys before the completion of operational test and evaluation of aircraft software that is integral to sonobuoy performance; (2) the Navy's revised acquisition strategy has added further risks to the program, since the Navy may need to modify the sonobuoys if software deficiencies become apparent during the operational test and evaluation; (3) although the Navy believed that separate testing of sonobuoys and software would isolate problems, successful testing of the sonobuoy alone would not guarantee that it would work with the software; (4) further delays in the deployment of the aircraft software would delay the Navy's use of the sonobuoys for some time after their delivery; (5) the revised acquisition strategy contradicted Navy guidance requiring operational test and evaluation of an entire system before authorizing production; and (6) the characteristics of the Tactical Surveillance Sonobuoy Program did not present an exception to this guidance.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: By May 1, 1991, GAO expected to receive a comprehensive statement of the action which had been, or would be taken, in response to the recommendation. The DOD response, however, ignored the fact that production funds were not requested in the Navy's FY 1992 budget and disputed the testing issue that was the foundation of the recommendation that production commitment be deferred beyond FY 1992.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should not authorize production of the tactical surveillance sonobuoy until operational test and evaluation demonstrates that it will function effectively when integrated with the new aircraft software.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy


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