Weapons Acquisition Reform: Actions Needed to Address Systems Engineering and Developmental Testing Challenges

GAO-11-806 Published: Sep 19, 2011. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2011.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights
Highlights

For the past 2 years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has been implementing the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act (Reform Act) requirements for systems engineering and developmental testing. These activities are important to DOD's ability to control acquisition costs, which increased by $135 billion over the past 2 years for 98 major defense acquisition programs. GAO was asked to determine (1) DOD's progress in implementing the Reform Act's requirements and (2) whether there are challenges at the military service level that could affect their systems engineering and developmental testing activities. To do this, GAO analyzed implementation status documents, discussed developmental testing office concerns with current and former DOD officials, and analyzed military service workforce growth plans and test range funding data..

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Contingent upon the results of DOD's assessment, the Congress may wish to consider revising any applicable statutory provisions necessary to allow for DOD to combine or shift resources between the Test Resource Management Center and the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Developmental Test and Evaluation.
Closed – Not Implemented
The assessment of developmental test resources that GAO recommended was completed in November 2011 and briefed to the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. The organizational structure of the Test Resource Management Center and the Developmental Test and Evaluation office was modified based on this study. This reorganization took effect in January 2012 without requiring any statutory changes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should assess the resources and influence needed by the developmental test and evaluation office to assist and oversee defense acquisition programs, including (1) the number of defense acquisition programs that can be supported by different developmental test and evaluation office staffing levels, including specifying the total number of personnel, the mix of government and contractor employees, and the number of senior executive service personnel needed for each of these staffing levels; (2) whether the Test Resource Management Center and the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Developmental Test and Evaluation should be combined or resources shifted between organizations to more effectively support the activities of both organizations and if so, identify for Congress any statutory revisions that would be necessary; and (3) the proper reporting channel, taking into account the decision on whether or not to combine the organizations, the statutory oversight requirements, and the level of influence needed to oversee and assess program office developmental testing and service budgeting activities.
Closed – Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Test & Evaluation commissioned a study that reviewed the Test Resource Management Center and the Developmental Test & Evaluation office to identify efficiencies and develop alternative organizational structures. This study was finalized in November 2011 and briefed to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The study presented organizational and staffing options for a stand-alone Test Resource Management Center as well as a unified framework that included central management of the two organizations, but allowed for a variety of implementation approaches below the management level.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should develop a plan to implement the results of the assessment.
Closed – Implemented
GAO recommended (GAO-11-806) that the Secretary of Defense develop a plan to implement the results of a study which examined the resources needed for the developmental test and evaluation office. The study was completed in November 2011 and subsequently briefed to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. The study examined alternatives for the reorganization of the Test Resource Management Center as a stand-alone entity. It also developed a unified framework which included central management of the Test Resource Management Center and the Developmental Test and Evaluation Office, but allowed for a variety of implementation approaches below the management level. According to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Test and Evaluation, the Under Secretary selected a hybrid approach based on the study. The reorganization reduced the staffing level of the Test Resource Management Center and added a senior executive position in the developmental test and evaluation office. The reorganization did not increase the action officer staffing level of the developmental test and evaluation office, however. The current reporting channels and organizational alignment of the two offices remains unchanged. This reorganization took effect in January 2012.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense, with input from the military services, should develop metrics to assess the Major Range and Test Facility Base (MRTFB) test capabilities (expanding to DOD non-MRTFB, and non-DOD government test facilities once an approved set of metrics are in place supporting the MRTFB), justify funding, and assist in making decisions on the right-sizing of personnel, how best to allocate funding, or make future decisions on whether to mothball, shut down, or consolidate test facilities. These efforts should be coordinated with the Test Resource Management Center.
Closed – Implemented
In December 2016, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Test and Evaluation issued a report which proposed a strategic plan for DOD test and evaluation resources. Specifically, the Test Resource Management Center has developed a standard evaluation that will enable it to assess the readiness of the Major Range and Test Facility Base test capabilities to determine its ability to perform its intended mission. Among other things, the evaluation reflects data gathered from infrastructure readiness reviews, site visits, and investment documents. The framework for the readiness reviews includes facilities, workforce, customer workload trends, and range environmental encroachment issues. In turn, range readiness review results will be reflected in the congressionally directed biennial publication of the Strategic Plan for DOD Test and Evaluation Resources.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense, with input from the military services, should report the impact budget cuts reflected in the fiscal year 2012 budget, as well as the insourcing policy clarification, will have on their (1) total workforce (civilians, military, and contractors) that support both of these activities and (2) ability to meet program office systems engineering and developmental test and evaluation needs.
Closed – Implemented
In the March 2012 joint annual report, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering reported on the impact these budget cuts had on the systems engineering workforce. The report indicated that the impact of the cuts is not fully known, but the Deputy will continue to work closely with the military services to guide, oversee, and advocate for the systems engineering workforce. Regarding service resources, the report stated that the Army's objectives for growing the workforce were reduced and insourcing was suspended. In contrast, the Navy's fiscal year 2012 budget is sufficient to support the planned program. The Air Force's civilian personnel reductions are contingent upon implementation of the fiscal year 2012 budget. The Deputy reported that Air Force needs to continue targeted hiring to avoid potential experience gaps in the workforce.

Full Report

GAO Contacts