Defense Acquisitions:

Reduced Operational Effectiveness of Joint Standoff Weapon

NSIAD-99-137: Published: Aug 31, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 31, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Navy's and the Air Force's development of the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), focusing on whether the: (1) missile will provide the capabilities originally intended; and (2) cost and operational effectiveness analyses continue to support the program's procurement plans.

GAO noted that: (1) the combat capabilities of the JSOW antiarmor and unitary variants are expected to be significantly less than originally projected because they have limited ability to hit moving targets or targets whose geographical coordinates are not known in advance; (2) most of the intended targets for both the unitary and antiarmor variants are moving or relocatable; (3) the wide-area variant will have similar constraints, but its utility is less affected because most of its primary targets are stationary; (4) the attainment of JSOW's required capability to hit moving or relocatable targets from standoff ranges was postponed following operational tests of the wide-area variant, an operational assessment of the antiarmor variant, and a fundamental redesign of the unitary variant to reduce costs; (5) although the requirement remains, upgrades to the aircraft targeting systems, or enhanced availability of third-party targeting, will be needed to achieve that capability; (6) however, such upgrades will be costly, and the requirement for JSOW to use self or third-party targeting has been deferred to a later, undefined date; (7) according to the Department of Defense (DOD), all JSOW variants are still expected to be effective in hitting certain fixed targets and targets whose geographical coordinates are known in advance; (8) however, since quantity requirements are based, in part, on the number of intended targets, the limited capability available to target moving or relocatable targets from standoff distances should reduce the quantity of weapons required; (9) for example, the unitary variant's inability to hit moving targets or targets whose geographical coordinates are not known in advance will reduce its intended targets, as detailed in the 1998 capabilities-based munitions requirements analysis, by over 90 percent; (10) therefore, far fewer missiles would be needed to attack the remaining targets; (11) the Navy and Air Force have not updated JSOW's cost and operational effectiveness analysis since postponing the attainment of the required capability to hit moving and relocatable targets; (12) JSOW's reduced capabilities have not eliminated all of the advantages of the weapon, but they have decreased its utility and flexibility and made it more comparable to other weapons; and (13) given its reduced capabilities, a number of existing weapons and weapons being developed might be more cost-effective than the JSOW.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Congress, in the fiscal year 2000 Defense appropriations act, considered the findings and recommendations in the report and took action to reduce the funding and quantities requested for the antiarmor version of JSOW by both the Air Force and the Navy.

    Matter: Congress should consider requiring the Secretary of Defense, in the fiscal year 2001 budget submission, to report on the reassessment of the procurement quantities for the JSOW antiarmor and unitary variants.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In preparing its budget request for fiscal year 2001, the Navy decided to reduce the quantities of the antiarmor variant of the JSOW.

    Recommendation: GAO believes the acquisition plans for the JSOW program need to be reassessed because the targeting limitations of the antiarmor variant and the design changes of the unitary variant prevent their effective use against moving or relocatable targets. Consequently, these limitations restrict them to attacking only stationary targets. As a result of the reduction in the number of targets, the Secretary of Defense should reassess the quantity of antiarmor and unitary variants that are needed to attack stationary targets and revise the near-term procurement plans to reflect only those quantities. Based on the reassessment, the Secretary should determine whether the remaining quantities and unit cost continue to make JSOW a cost-effective weapon.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation conducted a review of the requirement for the unitary variant of JSOW and determined that the Navy has a valid requirement for the missile. However, PA&E's review did not assess the quantity of unitary variants that the Navy needs to buy.

    Recommendation: To assist DOD in its assessment, the Secretary of Defense should task the Director of Program Analysis and Evaluation to independently review the reasons for the unitary variant's projected use against low-priority, moving and relocatable targets as well as why it is not selected for use against high-value targets in the capabilities-based munitions requirements process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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