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Defense Acquisitions: Fundamental Changes Are Needed to Improve Weapon Program Outcomes

GAO-08-1159T Published: Sep 25, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2008.
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Since 1990, GAO has designated the Department of Defense's (DOD) management of major weapon system acquisitions a high risk area. DOD has taken some action to improve acquisition outcomes, but its weapon programs continue to take longer, cost more, and deliver fewer capabilities than originally planned. These persistent problems--coupled with current operational demands--have impelled DOD to work outside of its traditional acquisition process to acquire equipment that meet urgent warfighter needs. Poor outcomes in DOD's weapon system programs reverberate across the entire federal government. Over the next 5 years, DOD expects to invest more than $357 billion on the development and procurement of major defense acquisition programs. Every dollar wasted on acquiring weapon systems is less money available for other priorities. This testimony describes DOD's current weapon system investment portfolio, the problems that contribute to cost and schedule increases, potential solutions based on past GAO recommendations, and recent legislative initiatives and DOD actions aimed at improving outcomes. It also provides some observations about what is needed for DOD to achieve lasting reform. The testimony is drawn from GAO's body of work on DOD's acquisition, requirements, and funding processes, as well as its most recent annual assessment of selected DOD weapon programs.

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Cost overrunsDefense budgetsDefense capabilitiesDefense cost controlDefense economic analysisDefense industryDefense operationsDefense procurementInvestment planningProcurement planningProcurement practicesProgram managementRisk managementSchedule slippagesStrategic planningSystems analysisSystems designWeapons research and developmentWeapons systems