Early Warning Satellites:

Funding for Follow-on System Is Premature

NSIAD-92-39: Published: Nov 7, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 1991.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the budget implications of the Department of Defense's (DOD) plans to develop a follow-on system to the Defense Support Program (DSP).

GAO found that: (1) DOD favors a Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS) which could provide more capability than the DSP system; (2) providing funds to start FEWS development efforts in fiscal year (FY) 1992 would be premature because DOD has not considered several system alternatives; (3) the best alternative is still unknown, but five separate studies indicate that an enhanced DSP could be nearly as effective and would cost billions less than a fully capable FEWS; (4) the Air Force is faced with an affordability problem and has proposed a design-to-budget solution for a less capable system; (5) the Air Force has not estimated the incremental costs to transition from the initial FEWS to a fully capable FEWS and cannot make a sound decision without those factors; and (6) the Air Force plans to spend $166 million to initiate the FEWS program in FY 1992.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress supported the program.

    Matter: Until the Secretary of Defense provides Congress with the recommended information, Congress may wish to consider taking action during the FY 1992 budget deliberations to prevent premature funding of FEWS. This can be accomplished by: (1) either rescinding $84 million in FY 1991 research, development, test, and evaluation appropriations that the Air Force plans to use for FEWS or restricting DOD from obligating those funds; and (2) either denying the Air Force's request for $82 million in the FY 1992 budget for FEWS or restricting any appropriations provided for this purpose. The restriction of funds should be in effect until Congress receives and reviews the recomended information.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with the recommendation and Congress supported the program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the development of total estimated program incremental cost for a fully capable FEWS. Those costs and the Defense Acquisition Board results should be provided to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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