The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System--How Important Is It?

PSAD-80-22: Published: Jan 30, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1980.

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The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System is being designed to counter the existing electronic countermeasures threat to U.S. communications by Warsaw Pact forces. Development of the system has been given a high priority, but management has been ineffective and progress slow. In a February 1979 report, GAO identified a number of issues adversely affecting the program, including ineffective program management and direction, differences between the Air Force and Navy on the technical approach to be followed, lack of an analysis to determine the System's vulnerability to enemy jamming, and incomplete operational testing.

Currently, most U.S. military communications are neither secure nor jam resistant. The system under development will provide a secure, digital, jam-resistant communications capability. Some of the issues identified in the February 1979 study have been resolved, but similar problems continue to hamper system development. The life-cycle cost of the system has been estimated to be $7 billion; however, this estimate is questionable because it was developed using dissimilar technology and pricing methods for the Air Force and the Navy. Since the last report on the system, the Department of Defense has deferred most major decisions until June 1980, at the earliest. GAO believes that the deferral of major program decisions is a sound management decision because it aligns the program with the prescribed acquisition process. However, other efforts on the part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to question the military worth and cost effectiveness of the system and to begin a cost-reduction study did not seem consistent with the stated high priority and crucial need for the system.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should (1) determine the need for and importance of the System; (2) establish the System's priority in the context of the Department's overall budget requests; (3) revalidate the Joint Operational Requirements to assure that it includes only those characteristics necessary to meet the need; and (4) resolve the existing, and potential, future interservice conflicts. If the need, priority, and characteristics of the System are reconfirmed and conflicts resolved, the Secretary should also: (1) evaluate the alternative of installing the System in fewer selected platforms; (2) require the Joint Program Office to perform a countermeasures vulnerability study; (3) direct that the cost-effectiveness study group consider the results of the cost-reduction program; (4) require the Joint Program Office to prepare a Selected Acquisition Report that would show the total System program cost; (5) assure that designated weapon platforms can accommodate the System; (6) require that all future major program decisions are reviewed through the Defense System Acquisition Review Council/Decision Coordinating Paper process; (7) require the Program Office to prepare a joint program life-cycle cost estimate which would be based on a common technology, reflect the impact of inflation, and consider the cost-reduction efforts; and (8) establish schedule milestone dates through the Defense System Acquisition Review Council/Decision Coordinating Paper process.

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