Combat Air Power:

Assessment of Joint Close Support Requirements and Capabilities Is Needed

NSIAD-96-45: Published: Jun 28, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1996.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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GAO reviewed the military services' plans to upgrade their close support weapons capabilities, focusing on the processes the Department of Defense (DOD) uses to assess mission needs, capabilities, and modernization proposals for the close support mission.

GAO found that: (1) over the next 6 years, the Army plans to spend nearly $5.5 billion to develop and field more modern target acquisition systems, the Marine Corps plans to spend $3.2 billion to remanufacture AV-8B aircraft, and the Air Force plans to spend over $547 million to upgrade its target acquisition and night operations capabilities; (2) DOD has not determined the appropriate number and type of weapons needed for the joint close support mission; (3) the services have taken actions to enhance their close support capabilities without adequately considering the capabilities of other weapons systems; (4) although DOD instituted a joint warfighting capabilities assessment process in 1994, a separate assessment of the close support mission has not yet been made; and (5) without a comprehensive assessment of joint mission needs, DOD cannot decide which modernization proposals should be funded.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD indicated that Part II of the Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study (DAWMS) would address the issues raised by the GAO recommendation. However, this study was never published. DOD told GAO that the Joint Chiefs of Staff-sponsored Close Support End to End Assessment would address the issues in the recommendation. In September 1998, GAO requested a copy of the August 1997 published study to determine if the issues were addressed. GAO received the copy in July 1999 and found that it did not address the issues raised in the recommendation. DOD does not intend to do another study.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should conduct comprehensive cross-service assessments of overall joint close support mission needs, existing close support systems, and planned enhancements on a routine basis to determine whether and which proposed enhancements to close support systems should be funded, and in what quantities and priority. Such assessments might be made within the context of the joint warfighting capabilities assessment process although alternative mechanisms might be explored.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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