Major Acquisitions:

DOD's Process Does Not Ensure Proper Weapons Mix for Close Support Mission

NSIAD-92-180: Published: Apr 17, 1992. Publicly Released: May 19, 1992.

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Thomas J. Schulz
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) close support major acquisition process, focusing on whether the: (1) process identifies the proper mix of weapons systems needed for current and future missions; (2) increased involvement of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has broadened DOD analyses to include consideration of the expected contribution of all services' close support assets; and (3) Army's planned procurements in support of its current doctrine and future war-fighting concept will overlap traditional areas of Air Force operations.

GAO found that: (1) the DOD major acquisition process for close support does not ensure that the proper mix of weapons is developed and procured to meet current and planned mission requirements; (2) the individual services generate their own analyses and assessments to support desired changes in missions, requirements, or procurement for submission to JCS and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), but those assessments do not question what and how much is needed for the mission area and do not adequately consider the expected contributions of other close support weapons systems; (3) the services justify acquisitions based on unique mission needs or unique weapon capabilities, so competition among weapon systems in this environment is generally limited to a single weapon category; (4) the increased involvement of the Chairman of the JCS has not ensured that the expected contributions of all services' close support assets are considered when individual services propose changes in mission tasks, weapon system requirements, or procurement; (5) the Army is planning to procure several new close support weapon systems including attack helicopters, artillery, and missile systems; (6) in the future, the Army plans to use new surveillance and other technologies that will make weapons more accurate and lethal at greater ranges; and (7) the Army's close support procurement plans are intended to support its current doctrine and future war-fighting concept, but if approved, the Army procurements could overlap the Air Force's fixed-wing capabilities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of August 17, 1993, DOD had closed this case and planned no action regarding this recommendation. In its response, DOD stated that (1) while the military services needed to understand and be able to capitalize on the close support capability of the other services, each service brought to the battlefield a different set of weapon capabilities that translated into different ways to destroy battlefield targets and (2) some overlapping capabilities were necessary because the engaged ground commanders might not have all weapons at their disposal but had, DOD hoped, enough to accomplish their mission.

    Recommendation: To be more consistent with the objectives of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, the Secretary of Defense should strengthen DOD analysis of close support mission needs to ensure that each requirement and acquisition decision is made only after full disclosure and evaluation of the expected contributions of all complementary close support weapon systems, regardless of service.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of August 17, 1993, DOD planned no action in response to this recommendation. In its official response to GAO and Capitol Hill, DOD stated that the services conducted the analyses that had been delegated to them to support the weapon systems. The analyses address target sets as well as missions, including close air support. A weapon system being developed or proposed for development would includes comparisons and contributions from other systems, and procurement programs readjust in recognition of the complementary systems. A cost and operational effectiveness analysis will be conducted for each system in development.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct each military service to provide: (1) an in-depth mission needs analysis that identifies the expected contributions of all existing close support weapon systems both within its own service and in the other services; and (2) similar analyses of the contributions expected from weapon systems being developed and being proposed for development, when each justifies a specific requirement or procurement to JSC and OSD.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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