Mission Need for Advanced Strategic Air Launched Missile Should Be Reaffirmed Before Contracts Are Awarded

PSAD-79-101: Published: Aug 10, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1979.

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In November 1977 the Advanced Strategic Air Launched Missile (ASALM) program was designated as a major system acquisition by the Department of Defense, but the Air Force plans to award subsystem demonstration and validation contracts before a Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council I (DSARC I) review of the program. A DSARC I review reaffirms the mission need for a system and approves a program for competitively demonstrating the system concept. The Air Force estimates that the ASALM total research and development cost will be about $1.4 billion, and subsystem demonstration and validation contracts are estimated to cost almost $84 million through fiscal year 1982. Air Force officials believe a DSARC I milestone prior to contract award is not necessary because the contracts are for "subsystem" work as opposed to "system" development efforts. According to regulations, however, the demonstration and validation phase could involve alternative subsystems only and not be conducted at the system level.

ASALM program planning documents clearly show that the subsystem demonstration and validation phase would lead to a validation flyoff followed by selection of one contractor for full-scale engineering development. DSARC decision milestones are a means for directing and controlling the commitment of resources for acquiring major weapon systems. GAO believes that a DSARC I review of ASALM prior to contract award is especially critical since a Mission Element Need Statement (MENS) has not been approved, and a revised Required Operational Capability (ROC) document for the system has not been validated. In addition, the Air Force is still studying alternative means to accomplish the ASALM mission. To commit resources prior to a DSARC review may create a situation whereby the DSARC members feel compelled to recommend approval of the program. If the contracts are already awarded, a DSARC recommendation to disapprove or restructure the program would require the cancellation or modification of the contracts, with increased costs to the Government.

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