Electronic Combat:

Consolidation Master Plan Does Not Appear to Be Cost-Effective

NSIAD-97-10: Published: Jul 10, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 10, 1997.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) Electronic Combat Consolidation Master Plan, focusing on the cost and benefits of DOD's consolidation plans for open air ranges, hardware-in-the-loop facilities, and installed system test facilities used in electronic combat testing.

GAO noted that: (1) implementation of the Electronic Combat Consolidation Master Plan will result in less effective electronic combat testing capabilities; (2) the planned relocation of the Electro-Magnetic Test Environment will eliminate DOD's current capability to test electronic combat systems in conditions that typify many potential threat locations; (3) DOD will be left with two open air ranges with very similar environmental characteristics and will no longer have the ability to test in diverse conditions needed to understand environmental effects on electronic combat systems; (4) the planned Real-time Electronic Digitally Controlled Analyzer Processor relocation will mean replacing existing hardware simulation capability with digital computer models, thus reducing DOD's current capability to simulate realistic aircraft strike scenarios with high confidence and fidelity; (5) the Master Plan did not contain any cost analysis and did not identify any savings expected from the consolidations; (6) estimates used to support 1995 Base Closure and Realignment Commission deliberations, as well as data provided by users, indicate that the consolidation may increase DOD's electronic combat testing costs; (7) in addition, the Master Plan does not contain any analysis or recommendations regarding consolidation of installed system test facility workloads across the services although the Navy and the Air Force are spending $512 million for construction of another anechoic chamber to provide a controlled electromagnetic environment, and other upgrades to their current primary installed system test facilities; (8) consequently, the Master Plan, if implemented, may not achieve the most cost-effective DOD-wide infrastructure; (9) the root cause of this was DOD officials' inability to overcome service parochialism during the Master Plan's development; (10) this parochialism resulted in a gentleman's agreement between the Air Force and the Navy to focus on intraservice rather than interservice consolidations; (11) prior joint service studies performed on an interservice basis had identified alternatives for more cost-effective consolidations; (12) however, the recommendations of these studies were never implemented; and (13) if this continues, service rivalry could adversely affect DOD's ongoing, congressionally mandated Section 277/Vision 21 consolidation effort, which is considering the broader issue of DOD's testing and laboratory facilities.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to congressional staff, an effort was made to implement the matter for consideration during the fiscal year 1998 budget process, but nothing came of this.

    Matter: Because DOD's Electronic Combat Consolidation Master Plan may not provide for the most cost-effective DOD-wide infrastructure for electronic combat testing as directed by the Congress, the Congress may wish to consider directing the Secretary of Defense to defer the transferring of electronic combat test assets until DOD completes its Vision 21 plan for restructuring its laboratories and test and evaluation centers.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to a letter from the Air Force to Senator Mack and provided to GAO, to continue to meet the needs of DOD test customers, the Air Force has decided not to close the electronic combat test facility at Eglin AFB, Florida, as called for in the Master Plan the report criticizes. This change in Air Force and DOD plans since completion of the report implements the portion of the recommendation dealing with maintaining diversity in the test facility base and the need to respond to the desires of DOD test facility customers.

    Recommendation: Because the loss of electronic combat effectiveness was not given adequate consideration in the development of DOD's Electronic Combat Consolidation Master Plan, the Master Plan contained no costs or evidence of savings, and service parochialism was allowed to interfere with development of the Master Plan, the Secretary of Defense should take steps to make sure that the methodology for the ongoing Section 277/Vision 21 effort include the following criteria: (1) accurate, comparable, and reliable data on the true cost of operating the services' test and evaluation infrastructure; (2) the needs of and costs to test facility customers; (3) the maintenance of geographical and topographical diversity in the test facility base; (4) the requirement that proposed consolidations be cost-effective for DOD as a whole; and (5) measures to ensure that implementation of cost-effective decisions cannot be constrained or avoided.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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