Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Information for Supporting Future Key Decisions for Boost and Ascent Phase Elements

GAO-07-430 Published: Apr 17, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 2007.
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Highlights

The Department of Defense (DOD) has spent about $107 billion since the mid-1980s to develop a capability to destroy incoming ballistic missiles. DOD has set key decision points for deciding whether to further invest in capabilities to destroy missiles during the initial phases after launch. In March 2006, DOD issued a report on these capabilities in response to two mandates. To satisfy a direction from the House Appropriations Committee, GAO agreed to review the report. To assist Congress in evaluating DOD's report and preparing for future decisions, GAO studied the extent to which DOD (1) analyzed technical and operational issues and (2) presented complete cost information. To do so, GAO assessed the report's methodology, explanation of assumptions and their effects on results, and whether DOD followed key principles for developing life-cycle costs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To support key decision points for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) boost and ascent phase elements and to provide decision makers with information that enables them to clearly understand the technical progress and operational implications of each boost and ascent phase element and make fully informed, fact-based, program decisions at future key decision points, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to include all DOD stakeholders (including services, combatant commands, Joint Staff) in developing and analyzing operational issues regarding what is needed to support operations at U.S. bases and potential forward locations, including basing assessments, force structure and quantity requirements, infrastructure, security/force protection, maintenance, and personnel.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation and indicated its plans to include all DOD stakeholders--including services, combatant commands, and Joint Staff--in developing and analyzing operational issues related to boost and ascent phase elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). However, in 2009, DOD terminated the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and restructured the Airborne Laser (ABL) program into a technology demonstration program. GAO reported in 2010 that the current ABL program is not expected to result in an operational system. Both these programs were addressing boost and ascent phase elements.
Department of Defense To support key decision points for the BMDS boost and ascent phase elements and to provide decision makers with information that enables them to clearly understand the technical progress and operational implications of each boost and ascent phase element and make fully informed, fact-based, program decisions at future key decision points, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to provide specific information on the technical progress of each element. Specifically, the analysis should explain current technical maturity versus desired technical maturity and capabilities of all major components and subsystems, reasonable model inputs on element performance, and provide a clear explanation of assumptions and their effect on results.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation, and the agency stated that key boost/ascent phase decisions would be informed by detailed technical analysis, including assessments of element technical maturity, and any sensitivity of element performance estimates to the models and simulations used. However, in 2009, DOD terminated the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and restructured the Airborne Laser (ABL) program into a technology demonstration program. GAO reported in 2010 that the current ABL program is not expected to result in an operational system. Both these programs were addressing boost and ascent phase elements.
Department of Defense To support key decision points for the BMDS boost and ascent phase elements and to provide decision makers with information that enables them to clearly understand the technical progress and operational implications of each boost and ascent phase element and make fully informed, fact-based, program decisions at future key decision points, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to use the results of these analyses at each key decision point.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation, and the Department stated that key program decisions would continue to be informed by detailed technical analysis, including assessments of element technical maturity, and any sensitivity of element performance estimates to the models and simulations used. However, in 2009, DOD terminated the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and restructured the Airborne Laser (ABL) program into a technology demonstration program. GAO reported in 2010 that the current ABL program is not expected to result in an operational system. Both these programs were addressing boost and ascent phase elements.
Department of Defense To provide decision makers with complete and reliable data on the costs of each boost/ascent phase BMDS element to enhance investment and budget decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to require MDA to prepare and--to support key decision points--periodically update a full life-cycle cost estimate for each boost/ascent phase element, in accordance with key principles for developing accurate and reliable life-cycle cost estimates, that includes all operational costs, including costs to establish and sustain operations at U.S. bases and forward locations, and that is based on warfighter quantities, includes sensitivity analyses, and reflects time phasing.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD did not agree with this recommendation. The agency stated that it continuously assesses all aspects of its developments and will direct an independent evaluation of life cycle costs for boost and ascent phase elements if circumstances warrant or if the Director, Missile Defense Agency (MDA), declares an element mature enough to provide a militarily useful capability. However, in 2009, DOD terminated the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and restructured the Airborne Laser (ABL) program into a technology demonstration program. GAO reported in 2010 that the current ABL program is not expected to result in an operational system. Both these programs were addressing boost and ascent phase elements.
Department of Defense To provide decision makers with complete and reliable data on the costs of each boost/ascent phase BMDS element to enhance investment and budget decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct an independent group, such as the Cost Analysis Improvement Group, to prepare an independent life-cycle cost estimate for each capability at each key decision point.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD partially agreed with this recommendation. The agency believed that some program key decision points require an independent life cycle cost estimate while others do not. However, in 2009, DOD terminated the Kenetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and restructured the Airborne Laser (ABL) program into a technology demonstration program. GAO reported in 2010 that The current ABL program is not expected to result in an operational system. Both these programs were addressing boost and ascent phase elements.
Department of Defense To provide decision makers with complete and reliable data on the costs of each boost/ascent phase BMDS element to enhance investment and budget decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA and services to report independently verified life-cycle cost estimates along with budget requests and Future Years Defense Program funding plans for each boost/ascent phase element.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD did not agree to implement this recommendation. Because operations and support segments of the budget are organized by functional area--for example, personnel, unit-level consumption, and sustaining support--DOD stated that operations and support cost cannot always be tracked to a specific weapon system. Rather than submit life cycle cost estimates along with budget requests and the Future Years Defense Plan, DOD planned to submit an annual Transition and Transfer Plan that assigns responsibility for missile defense assets to organizations and lays out delivery plans, funding, and schedules. DOD believed that this document can be used to provide needed insights into estimated Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) life cycle costs. In 2009, DOD terminated the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and restructured the Airborne Laser (ABL) program into a technology demonstration program. GAO reported in 2010 that The current ABL program is not expected to result in an operational system. Both these programs were addressing boost and ascent phase elements.

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