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Cancellation of the Army's Autonomous Navigation System

GAO-12-851R Published: Aug 02, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 02, 2012.
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What GAO Found

Almost all ANS hardware and most software development were completed prior to its cancellation, according to the Army and GDRS. The software for the most advanced capabilities was not completed, which potentially presented the greatest complexities. GDRS had demonstrated many of ANS’s capabilities to some extent, including its capability to avoid obstacles and follow a leading vehicle through varying terrain. ANS had not yet progressed to the independent testing phase, however. In cancelling ANS and MM-UGV, the Army estimated that approximately $2.5 billion in planned funding for fiscal years 2013 to 2017 could be made available for other Army efforts. According to Army officials, the government owns the work completed on ANS to date.

To compare ANS to other alternatives, the Army engaged a team (the Red Team) to perform a functional comparison of the demonstrated capabilities of ANS and six other military and commercial systems. The Red Team, comprised of robotics experts with prior knowledge of the systems, found that ANS did not provide a unique capability relative to the other systems evaluated with respect to basic navigation functionality. However, the Red Team noted that ANS was designed for and had demonstrated capabilities for operating in an off-road environment, unlike some of the other systems. The Red Team, which had previously witnessed demonstrations of some of the systems, did not conduct field evaluations for the study due to time constraints, nor did the team rely on testing data and reports on the different systems.

DOD has not validated a requirement for a UGV with an ANS-like capability using the traditional requirement processes, despite attempts to do so. On the other hand, urgent needs statements from battlefield commanders indicate some desire for unmanned ground capabilities—especially in countering IEDs. Several efforts have been underway to address these urgent needs, but nothing has yet resulted in a full scale development program.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Army intended the Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) to enable ground robotic vehicles to partially drive and navigate themselves and to do so in remote areas with difficult terrain, by integrating sensors, processors, and software. Initially, the Army was developing the system as part of manned and unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) that were part of the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program. But after the cancellation of various FCS vehicles beginning in 2009, the Army planned to couple ANS with the yet-to-be developed Multi-Mission Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MM-UGV), which among many uses was intended to counter roadside bombs – or improvised explosive devices (IED) – in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Dynamics Robotic Systems (GDRS) was the contractor for ANS.

The Army made considerable effort to develop and validate a requirement for the MM-UGV and ANS; however, both were cancelled in 2011. With the cancellation of these efforts, Congress expressed interest in the impact on Army future autonomous unmanned ground capabilities. In response, we examined:

  • To what extent did the Army demonstrate ANS capabilities prior to cancellation?

  • What methods did the Army use to compare ANS to commercially available and other alternatives, particularly in the area of field demonstrations?

  • To what extent does a validated requirement exist for this capability, and how does it fit in with other UGV initiatives?

For more information, contact Belva Martin at (202) 512-4841 or

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