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Defense Acquisitions: Missile Defense Transition Provides Opportunity to Strengthen Acquisition Approach.

GAO-10-311 February 25, 2010

By law, GAO is directed to assess the annual progress the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) made in developing and fielding the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). GAO also assessed MDA's progress toward improving accountability and transparency in agency operations, management processes, and its acquisition strategy. To accomplish this, GAO reviewed asset fielding schedules, test plans and reports, as well as pertinent sections of Department of Defense (DOD) policy to compare MDA's current level of accountability with that of other DOD programs. GAO's fiscal year 2009 assessment of MDA's cost, schedule, and performance progress is more limited than previous assessments because MDA removed key components of schedule and performance goals from its annual report of goals. In addition, though it had committed to, MDA did not report total cost estimates in 2009.

Fiscal year 2009 was an unprecedented year of transition for MDA as it experienced its first change of administration, its third MDA Director, shifts in plans for missile defense in Europe as well as a shift in focus for technology development from intercepting missiles during the boost phase to the early intercept phase. Such changes present new challenges for MDA but also opportunities to strengthen acquisition approaches. (1) Progress: MDA achieved several accomplishments. For example, MDA revised its testing approach to better align tests with modeling and simulation needs and undertook a new targets development effort to resolve longstanding problems supplying sufficient and reliable targets. The agency also demonstrated increased levels of performance for some elements through flight and ground testing. Fiscal year 2009 testing indicates an increased level of interoperability among multiple elements, improving both system-level performance and advancing the BMDS models and simulations needed to predict performance. In addition, the agency delivered 83 percent of the assets it planned to deliver by the end of fiscal year 2009. (2) Challenges: While there was progress, all BMDS elements had delays in conducting tests, were unable to accomplish all planned objectives, and experienced performance challenges. Poor target performance continued to be a problem, causing several test delays and leaving several test objectives unfulfilled. The test problems also precluded MDA from gathering key knowledge and affected development of advanced algorithms and homeland defense. These test problems continued to affect the models and simulations used to assess the overall performance of the BMDS. Consequently, comprehensive assessments of its capabilities and limitations are still not possible. MDA also redefined its schedule baseline, eliminating goals for delivering integrated capabilities so we were not able to assess progress in this area. Despite these problems, MDA proceeded with production and fielding of assets. (3) Transparency, Accountability, and Oversight: In 2009, the significant adjustments MDA made to its acquisition approach--terminating the block structure; reducing, eliminating, or not reporting key baselines; and terminating its capability declaration process--and adjustments to the material reported to Congress reduced the transparency and accountability MDA had begun to build. However, MDA is beginning to implement several initiatives--including the adoption of key principles of DOD acquisition regulations--that could improve transparency and accountability and lay the foundation needed for oversight. If these initiatives are implemented in accordance with knowledge-based acquisition principles, an opportunity exits to improve the BMDS acquisition by ensuring MDA programs begin with realistic, transparent plans and baselines. While these initial steps hold promise, they will take time to fully implement and once implemented they will need to be sustained over time and consistently applied.

Recommendations

Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Cristina T. Chaplain Team: Government Accountability Office: Acquisition and Sourcing Management Phone: (202) 512-4859

Recommendations for Executive Action

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to establish cost, schedule, and performance baselines for the acquisition of each new class of target when it is approved by the Director prior to proceeding with acquisition and report those baselines to Congress.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to obtain independent Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation cost estimates in support of these cost baselines.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to ensure that program acquisition unit costs for BMDS assets are reported in the BMDS Accountability Report, to provide Congress with more complete and comprehensive information by including development costs.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to update DOD's Plan to Enhance the Accountability and Transparency of the Ballistic Missile Defense Program to reflect MDA's current initiatives and include dates for fulfilling each commitment.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to report top-level test goals for each element, or appropriate portions thereof, to Congress in the next BMDS Accountability Report.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to develop and report to Congress in the annual BMDS Accountability Report a measure for schedule baseline goals that incorporates delivering integrated capabilities to the warfighter.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to develop and report to Congress in the annual BMDS Accountability Report the dates at which performance baselines will be achieved.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: As MDA implements its initiatives to improve transparency, accountability, and oversight, and begins efforts to manage and oversee MDA at the element level, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to report to Congress variances against all established baselines.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to delay the manufacturing decision for SM-3 Block IB missiles intended for delivery to the fleet as operational assets until after (1) the critical technologies have completed developmental testing, (2) a successful first flight test demonstrates that the system functions as intended, and (3) the successful conclusion of the manufacturing readiness review.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to ensure that developmental hardware and software changes are not made to the operational baseline that disrupt the assessments needed to understand the capabilities and limitations of new BMDS developments.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Categories: February 25, 2010, Accountability, Ballistic missiles, Cost analysis, Defense capabilities, Defense contingency planning, Defense cost control, Defense procurement, Federal procurement, Military technology, Missiles, Operational testing, Procurement planning, Reporting requirements, Strategic planning, Systems design, Testing, Weapons systems
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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