Ballistic Missile Defense:

Improvements Needed in Navy Area Acquisition Planning

NSIAD-98-34: Published: Nov 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1997.

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GAO reviewed the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program to determine whether the: (1) program has met its milestones to date and its remaining schedule appears realistic; and (2) tests being conducted or planned will be adequate to demonstrate the system's capabilities before production begins.

GAO noted that: (1) the Area program has experienced schedule slips totalling about 14 months due to several reasons, including technical problems in the two flight tests conducted prior to the engineering and manufacturing development phase; (2) further schedule slips are possible because of the acquisition plan's highly optimistic schedule for conducting operational tests; (3) slippages in completing these tests could result in the system remaining in a low-rate production phase longer than planned; (4) the Navy plans to begin production of Area program missiles before conducting any operational tests of the systems; (5) according to the Navy, it needs to begin low-rate initial production of the missiles in June 2000--5 months before system level developmental and operational tests are scheduled to begin--because of the urgent need for the system and to maintain an efficient flow in missile production; and (6) in GAO's opinion, two factors raise some questions about the Navy's rationale for the criticality of initiating low-rate initial production, namely: (a) a prototype system capability consisting of two cruisers equipped with User Operational Evaluation System missiles will be in service at that time; and (b) an earlier version of the Standard missile will still be in production, diminishing the need for low-rate production of the Block IVA missile to avoid a production gap.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense stated that GAO's findings and recommendation are contrary to the purpose of low-rate initial production as defined in 10 U.S.C. 2399 and DOD 5000.2-5.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization to revise the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Program's acquisition plan and/or its operational testing schedule to ensure that the low-rate initial production decision on the 185 Block IVA missiles is made contingent on the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, certifying, based on sufficient independent testing in an operational environment, that the system has the potential to meet its key performance requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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