Defense's Overall Master Plan for Air Defense Should Consider Certain Issues in Its Development

PSAD-81-15: Published: Dec 5, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 1980.

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GAO plans to terminate its survey of the Department of Defense's efforts to defend the continental United States against strategic attack. The assignment was intended to determine the extent to which recommendations made in a prior report on atmospheric defense were implemented and the current status of missile and atmospheric defense systems.

GAO noted that, during the fiscal year 1980 appropriations hearings, Congress deferred further funding of selected air defense systems until Defense submitted an air defense master plan for the continental United States. The plan will be provided to Congress before the fiscal year 1982 appropriations hearings. In addition, GAO learned that the Defense Audit Service recently reviewed the air defense program and is expected to issue a final report. The Office of Management and Budget is doing work in the area and recently sent a team to investigate the distant early warning line in Canada. GAO hopes the air defense plan will: (1) identify the atmospheric threat(s) and the probability of occurrence; (2) establish air defense mission(s) priorities reflective of the threat(s); (3) identify and evaluate alternative systems to effectively and efficiently accomplish the mission(s); and (4) be revised periodically to consider the effect of changing policy, threat, and technological advancements. Depending on the overall threat assessment, GAO also hopes that the plan considers whether: (1) command, control, and communication modes are sufficiently secure, jam resistant, and capable of withstanding attack; (2) air defense interceptors are adequately equipped and strategically located; (3) surface to air missiles can or should play a major air defense role; (4) over-the-horizon backscatter radar or a space base system are better; (5) the current airborne warning and control system is conducive; and (6) an opportunity exists to reduce the number of radar sites.

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