Missile Defense: Actions Being Taken to Address Testing Recommendations, but Updated Assessment Needed

GAO-04-254 Published: Feb 26, 2004. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2004.
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In August 2000, the Defense Department's (DOD) Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), made 50 recommendations on a test program for a system to defeat long-range ballistic missile threats against the United States. DOD's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) plans to begin fielding the system by September 2004. GAO examined (1) how MDA addressed DOT&E's recommendations and (2) what is known about the effectiveness of the system to be fielded by September 2004. GAO issued a classified report on this subject in June 2003. This unclassified, updated version reflects changes in MDA's test schedule.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of the Director of Operational Testing and Evaluation As a means of providing decision makers with critical information when investments in missile defense are considered, the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) should report periodically, as it deems appropriate, on the status of the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) actions taken or planned in response to the August 2000 recommendations. In its review, DOT&E should include information and recommendations, as warranted, on MDA's progress and planning (1) to improve hardware-in-the-loop testing of the kill vehicle, (2) to test kill vehicle components in nuclear environments, and (3) to test the GMD element's capability to defeat likely and simple near-term countermeasures during integrated flight tests. In the report, DOT&E can advise the Director, MDA, on how the test program could be modified to accommodate DOT&E's long-standing concerns.
Closed – Not Implemented
DOT&E has no plans to implement GAO's recommendation. Based on conversations with DOT&E officials responsible for missile defense programs, they site the following reasons: (1) DOT&E does not have the resources to take on more reporting requirements; (2) the recommendations made in August 2000 pertain to a test program that is no longer relevant; and (3) DOT&E's statutory reporting requirements address the issues, although not explicitly.

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