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What GAO Found

A majority of the 20 selected Department of Defense (DOD) major automated information systems (MAIS) programs had not established their first baselines (which consist of a life cycle cost estimate, a schedule estimate, and performance targets) within 2 years from program start; over half met or planned to meet a statutorily established time frame for deploying capabilities. While the Defense Science Board supports that programs should establish their baselines within 2 years, 12 programs spent, on average, 5 years and 2 months and about $452 million prior to establishing baselines. Programs that have not established baselines are subject to less oversight and cannot be measured against cost, schedule, and performance targets. Also, the propensity to carry out MAIS programs for multiple years prior to committing to baselines is inconsistent with incremental and rapid development as called for in federal law, Office of Management and Budget guidance, and a Defense Science Board recommendation. Notably, over half of the 20 programs met or planned to meet the time frame established by a DOD-specific law for deciding to fully deploy system capabilities, in part because they were restructured into smaller, incremental programs. Until programs establish their cost and schedule baselines within 2 years, they may continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars with limited oversight and accountability.

Of four selected MAIS programs, two had fully defined and managed their key risks, and two were on track to do so. For example, while the Air Force program did not always identify completion targets for its risk mitigation plans, it had a plan in place to correct this by March 2015. The four programs varied in their implementation of the selected acquisition best practices—requirements development and project planning. Specifically, two programs implemented requirements development best practices and the others were on track to do so. Two programs were on track to implement key planning practices, but the other two had not developed schedules that incorporated all best practices. Further, DOD had not fully developed a comprehensive plan for implementing the Army logistics program, including testing to ensure that its financial statements are auditable. Without effective project planning, these programs risk not meeting cost and schedule targets and implementing systems that do not meet needs.

Selected MAIS Programs' Implementation of Acquisition Best Practices


Risk management

Requirements development

Project planning

Navy's Distributed Common Ground System - Navy Increment 2

Army's Integrated Personnel and Pay System - Army Increment 2

Air Force's Joint Space Operations Center Mission System Increment 2

Army's Logistics Modernization Program Increment 2

● Fully implemented ◐ Partially implemented ◍ On track to fully implement ○ Not implemented

Source: GAO analysis of agency data. I GAO-15-282

Why GAO Did This Study

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 mandated that GAO select, assess, and report on DOD MAIS programs annually through March 2018. This report discusses the results of GAO's third assessment. GAO's objectives included: (1) determine whether selected MAIS programs are meeting time frames for establishing program baselines and deploying capabilities, (2) assess selected MAIS programs' actions to manage risks, and (3) assess the extent to which selected MAIS programs have used key information technology acquisition best practices.

For its first objective, GAO selected a sample of 20 MAIS programs based on a few factors, such as programs that were designated as first (or only) increments. For the other objectives, GAO identified 4 out of 40 programs based on several factors, such as representation from multiple DOD components (1 from Air Force, 2 from Army, and 1 from Navy), and assessed them against selected acquisition best practices for risk management, requirements development, and project planning.

Skip to Recommendations


GAO recommends, among other things, that DOD require programs to establish a baseline within 2 years of beginning work and direct the Air Force program and the Army logistics program to address weaknesses in their project planning acquisition practices. DOD concurred with all recommendations except one, with which it partially concurred. GAO maintains that establishing baselines within 2 years would improve outcomes and increase accountability.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to require MAIS programs to establish their first acquisition program baseline within 2 years of beginning work on the programs.
As of January 2020, DOD had made limited progress addressing our recommendation for business system programs; however, it had not addressed the recommendation for non-business system programs. Specifically, the department updated its instruction on business systems requirements and acquisition to include, among other things, guidance on establishing baselines against which to measure progress for developing needed business capability. However, the instruction did not explicitly require that a program baseline be established within 2 years. Specifically, according to the instruction, baselines may be established at the program level or at the release level (i.e., for a manageable subset of functionality in support of the business capability), within 2 years after programs have validated a business capability is needed and received approval to conduct solution analysis. If at the program level, the baseline is to be set prior to the development of the first release or deployment. If at the release level, the baseline is to be set prior to the development of each release or deployment. In January 2020, the department also issued interim policy for software-intensive systems. However, while the interim policy requires program managers to develop an acquisition strategy that includes delivering software within one year from the date funds are first obligated to acquire or develop new software capability, the interim policy does not require software-intensive system programs to establish a program baseline within 2 years.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to direct the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System program office to develop a schedule that fully incorporates best practices, including sequencing all activities and updating the schedule with actual progress and logic.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2016, the JMS program updated JMS Increment 2's schedule. As we recommended, the updated schedule now substantially meets the scheduling best practices to (1) sequence all activities within the schedule, and (2) update the schedule with actual progress and logical relationships between activities.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Logistics Modernization Program program office to develop a schedule that fully incorporates the best practice of properly sequencing all schedule activities.
Closed - Implemented
In May 2016, the LMP program updated LMS Increment 2's schedule. As we recommended, the updated schedule now substantially meets the scheduling best practice to properly sequence all activities within the schedule.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller) to complete a plan for conducting auditability testing of LMP Increment 2 functionality to ensure that such testing occurs prior to the LMP program management office deploying future functionality.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, DOD developed a plan to conduct system testing on LMP Increment 2 both prior to deploying new functionality to users, as well as after (to verify that LMP's system controls are operating effectively). Conducting such tests should help to ensure that LMP's controls are properly designed and implemented in order to enable auditability of the Army's financial statements.

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