Missile Defense: Knowledge-Based Practices Are Being Adopted, but Risks Remain

GAO-03-441 Published: Apr 30, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 04, 2003.
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The Department of Defense (DOD) would like to build a capable missile defense system that paces an ever-evolving threat. This is an expensive and risky endeavor because it requires a diverse set of technologies to be quickly developed, integrated, and deployed across an array of platforms. DOD estimates that it will need $50 billion for missile defense research and development over the next 6 years and likely additional funds in subsequent years. GAO was asked to review the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) strategy for this investment and determine what knowledge-based practices characteristic of successful programs are being adopted by MDA; what significant practices are not being adopted; and whether MDA is following the practices that it has adopted.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Missile Defense Agency To assist MDA and DOD decision makers in determining which elements or components should be included in each new block of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, the Missile Defense Agency, before beginning integration activities, should prepare a life cycle cost estimate for configuring the element or component that the agency is considering including in the block.
Closed – Implemented
The Missile Defense Agency's recently revised Integrated Master Plan requires that an affordability analysis be completed. This requires that the funding investment for the design, development, and fielding of a Block capability and integration into the Ballistic Missile Defense System be established. Also required is that prior to beginning integration, a match must be made between available resources and desired capabilities. According to Agency officials with whom GAO met on June 26, 2003, the affordability analysis is a life cycle cost estimate for the block configuration.
Department of Defense To help ensure that funds are available to produce and operate the elements of the missile defense system when a decision is made to transfer elements to the military services, the Secretary of Defense should explore the option of requiring the services to set aside funds for this purpose in the Future Years Defense Plan.
Closed – Not Implemented
The Missile Defense Agency had previously advised GAO that it was considering adding a wedge of funds that would be available should the agency decide to transfer an element, or elements, to a military service for production and operation. However, as of May 31, 2005, the agency had not added a wedge of funding to field the missile defense system.

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