From 2008 through 2013, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to invest over $16 billion to develop and procure additional unmanned aircraft systems. To more effectively leverage its acquisition resources, DOD recognizes that it must achieve greater commonality among the military services' unmanned aircraft programs. Doing so, however, requires certain trade-offs and complex budget, cost, and schedule interactions. GAO was asked to assess the progress of selected unmanned aircraft acquisition programs, examine the extent to which the services are collaborating and identifying commonality among those programs, and identify key factors impacting the effectiveness their collaboration. GAO analyzed cost, schedule, and performance data for eight unmanned aircraft systems--accounting for over 80 percent of DOD's total planned investment in unmanned aircraft systems from 2008 through 2013--and two payload programs.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||1. To more effectively leverage resources and increase the efficiency in unmanned aircraft system acquisition programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct a rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the requirements for current unmanned aircraft programs, develop a strategy for making systems and subsystems among those programs more common, and report the findings of this analysis to Congress. At a minimum, this analysis should quantify the costs and benefits of alternative approaches, identify specific actions that need to be taken, and summarize the status of DOD's various ongoing unmanned aircraft-related studies.|
|Department of Defense||2. To more effectively leverage resources and increase the efficiency in unmanned aircraft system acquisition programs, and prior to initiating any new unmanned aircraft program, the Secretary of Defense should require the military services to identify and document in their acquisition plans and strategies specific areas where commonality can be achieved, take an open systems approach to product development, conduct a quantitative analysis that examines the costs and benefits of various levels of commonality, and establish a collaborative approach and management framework to periodically assess and effectively manage commonality.|