Ballistic Missile Defense:

Improvements Needed in THAAD Acquisition Planning

NSIAD-97-188: Published: Sep 12, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1997.

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GAO reviewed the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program to determine whether: (1) planned testing would demonstrate operational effectiveness before a significant number of units are produced for deployment; and (2) missile target resources are adequate to support testing plans.

GAO noted that: (1) the current THAAD program review and evaluation provides the Department of Defense (DOD) with the opportunity to: (a) reduce risk and minimize the number of initial quantities of unproven system hardware by reexamining the schedule for operational testing and production; and (b) ensure that realistic targets will be used for testing; (2) the last approved THAAD acquisition plan calls for significant production of deployment hardware almost 2 years before beginning independent operational testing to assess the system's operational effectiveness; (3) the Army maintains that it needs to buy a number of THAAD systems during low-rate initial production to "ramp-up" to the full rate of production; (4) delaying production until after completing sufficient testing that provides assurance that key performance requirements can be met reduces the risk of buying unproven systems and facilitates production of proven systems at more efficient rates; (5) a suitable target for testing the THAAD system against longer range missiles does not exist, and funds have not been requested for target development and production; and (6) without a longer range test target to represent the more formidable, higher velocity missiles that THAAD could face, the system's operational effectiveness will remain in doubt and DOD will not have reasonable assurance that it could rely on THAAD in an actual conflict.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with GAO's recommendation that low-rate initial production of the THAAD system be delayed until after the system can be certified as meeting its key performance requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) to delay low-rate initial production of the THAAD system until after the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, has certified, based on sufficient independent testing in an operational environment, that the system can meet its key performance requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since publication of the GAO report, DOD has concurred in GAO's recommendation to include funding in DOD's fiscal year 1999 budget submission for a longer range missile target consistent with THAAD's revised test schedule.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should include in DOD's fiscal year 1999 budget submission, the estimated funds needed to implement a treaty compliant, longer range missile target program consistent with THAAD's revised test schedule.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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