Live Fire Testing:

Evaluating DOD's Programs

PEMD-87-17: Published: Aug 17, 1987. Publicly Released: Aug 17, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Live Fire (JLF) Test Program to determine: (1) the status of each munition and system scheduled for testing; (2) the methodological quality of the test and evaluation process; (3) the advantages and limitations of full-up, live-fire testing; and (4) needed improvements.

GAO found that: (1) the JLF tests for armor were two years behind schedule due to a controversy over objectives and methodology; (2) although the aircraft testing program has suffered less severe delays, a lack of targets is a problem for both components; (3) DOD has made little progress in validating its vulnerability/lethality (V/L) assessment program estimates; (4) full-up, live-fire testing is the only V/L assessment method that provides direct visual observation of weapon damage to a target under realistic conditions; (5) high cost and the limited target availability are the main limitations to testing; and (6) other test methods could supplement full-up, full-scale testing, but not substitute for it. GAO identified possible improvements in the design, conduct, and interpretation of live-fire testing.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: New guidance was written.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should: (1) conduct full-up tests of developing systems, first at the subscale level as subscale systems are developed, and later at the full-scale level mandated in the legislation; (2) establish guidelines on the role live-fire testing will play in procurement; (3) establish guidelines on the objectives and conduct of live-fire testing of new systems, with particular attention to clarifying what is to be expected from the services; and (4) ensure that the primary users' priorities drive the objectives of live-fire tests. Modelers are secondary users.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The JLF program was completed.

    Recommendation: Recent live-fire legislation requires the services to provide targets for testing new systems, but there is no similar requirement for the fielded systems in JLF, where lack of targets has impeded testing. Accordingly, the Secretary of Defense should provide more support to JLF for obtaining targets.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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