National Defense:

Spectrum Management in Defense Acquisitions

GAO-03-617R: Published: Apr 30, 2003. Publicly Released: May 30, 2003.

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The electromagnetic radio frequency spectrum is critical to the development and operation of a variety of military systems such as radios, radars, and satellites. Due to the changing nature of warfighting, more and more military systems depend on the spectrum to guide precision weapons and obtain information superiority. In recent years, demand for the spectrum increased with advances in commercial technology. This demand has led to competition between government and nongovernment users, making spectrum management vital to prevent harmful interference and to promote spectrum efficiency. With these goals in mind, the Department of Defense (DOD) has long-standing policies and procedures that require system developers and acquirers to consider and deal with spectrum supportability knowledge early in the development and acquisition of systems. Early assessment of spectrum needs provides DOD the opportunity to identify, and therefore, better manage program and operational risks. DOD policy requires developers of spectrum dependent systems to obtain certification before assumption of contractual obligations for the full-scale development, production or procurement of those systems. Senate Report 107-151 and House Report 106-945 required us to assess DOD's spectrum management process. We focused our assessment on (1) the results of the DOD spectrum certification processes and (2) the reasons for those results.

We found that DOD's weapons programs have often failed to obtain, consider, or act upon adequate spectrum supportability knowledge during the early stages of acquisition. A majority of programs try to gain this knowledge at later stages, after key systems development decisions may have been made. As a result, some programs experience significant delays, reduced operational capabilities, or the need for expensive redesign. More importantly, these programs missed opportunities to improve program results and avoid problems that are more costly to resolve late in development or fielding. Also, in a review of selected programs still under development, we found that consideration of spectrum supportability continues to be a problem. DOD is still entering into contracts, starting full-scale development, and sometimes fielding systems before obtaining certification of spectum supportability. The reasons for this late attention include program managers' lack of awareness of spectrum certification requirements, dated and unclear spectrum management guidance that is not aligned with current acquisition models, the competing demands of program managers, and a lack of effective enforcement mechanisms of existing spectrum certification requirements. Additional challenges to DOD implementing the spectrum certification process include the lengthy spectrum certification process, increased reliance on commercial communications services and cutting-edge technologies that challenge the traditional allocation of spectrum frequencies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2004, in response to this GAO recommendation and Congressional direction that resulted from GAO-03-617R, DOD revised and reissued DOD Directive 4650.1, "Policy for Management and Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum." Revisions to this directive require DOD Components that are developing or acquiring spectrum-dependent equipment or systems to make a written determination, with the concurrence of the DOD or Component Chief Information Officer (CIO), that there is reasonable assurance of spectrum supportability (including spectrum certification) for these systems as early as possible during the Technology Development Phase. Also, in May 2003, the DOD 5000-series acquisition directives were rewritten. These directives make direct reference to DOD 4650.1.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence; and appropriate service officials to update the spectrum supportability guidance contained in their respective spectrum management and acquisition policy directives and instructions to ensure program managers develop spectrum supportability knowledge, apply for spectrum certification, and consider spectrum operational risks at the earliest points possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2004, in response to this GAO recommendation and Congressional direction that resulted from GAO-03-617R, DOD revised and reissued DOD Directive 4650.1, "Policy for Management and Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum." Revisions to this directive require DOD Components that are developing or acquiring spectrum-dependent equipment or systems to make a written determination, with the concurrence of the DOD or Component Chief Information Officer (CIO), that there is reasonable assurance of spectrum supportability (including spectrum certification) for these systems as early as possible during the Technology Development Phase. Also, in May 2003, the DOD 5000-series acquisition directives were rewritten. These directives make direct reference to DOD 4650.1.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence; and appropriate service officials to update the spectrum supportability guidance contained in their respective spectrum management and acquisition policy directives and instructions to provide uniformity of spectrum management policies across services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2004, in response to this GAO recommendation and Congressional direction that resulted from GAO-03-617R, DOD revised and reissued DOD Directive 4650.1, "Policy for Management and Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum." Revisions to this directive require DOD Components that are developing or acquiring spectrum-dependent equipment or systems to make a written determination, with the concurrence of the DOD or Component Chief Information Officer (CIO), that there is reasonable assurance of spectrum supportability (including spectrum certification) for these systems as early as possible during the Technology Development Phase. Also, in May 2003, the DOD 5000-series acquisition directives were rewritten. These directives make direct reference to DOD 4650.1.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence; and appropriate service officials to update the spectrum supportability guidance contained in their respective spectrum management and acquisition policy directives and instructions to provide a spectrum certification process with the flexibility to align with current acquisition models.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken initial steps to address this recommendation. In June 2004, in response to GAO's recommendations and subsequent Congressional direction, DOD revised and reissued DOD Directive 4650.1, "Policy for Management and Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum." This directive requires that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration (ASD/NII) develop and maintain a Strategic Plan for management and use of the spectrum that establishes goals, objectives, measures, and responsibilities to ensure DOD spectrum needs are met and that the Department is making the most efficient and effective use of available spectrum. In July 2004, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum to all DOD components that provided guidance on the development of component-level spectrum management implementation plans. These implementation plans were intended to achieve goals and objectives established in DOD's Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Strategic Plan, which was published in October 2002. The objectives and performance measures associated with achieving Goal 1 of this Strategic Plan--improve electromagnetic spectrum management and electromagnetic environmental effects business processes--were closely in line with the intent of GAO's recommendation. However, while these component-level implementation plans were to have been delivered by November 2004, they were never finalized or approved, and the associated progress updates that were to have been submitted to ASD/NII by September 2005 (and biannually thereafter) were never produced. In August 2006, DOD published its Net-Centric Spectrum Management Strategy which articulated the Department's long-term vision for the transformation of spectrum management policies and processes within the Department. In addition, DOD issued an updated Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Strategic Plan in 2007 that outlines the department's key objectives and strategies to improve spectrum management practices. According to the plan, DOD intends to develop appropriate implementation plans for each of the objectives. However, implementation plans have not yet been developed and progress toward meeting the key spectrum management objectives has not been determined.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should measure spectrum management compliance and process performance to determine how well spectrum supportability considerations are addressed in the acquisition process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken significant steps toward addressing this recommendation. In June 2004, in response to GAO's recommendations and subsequent Congressional direction, DOD revised and reissued DOD Directive 4650.1, "Policy for Management and Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum." This directive requires that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration (ASD/NII) direct the establishment and maintenance of a capability to analyze and make recommendations concerning whether spectrum-dependent systems, either being acquired or procured, have, or will have, spectrum supportability. The directive also requires that the ASD/NII direct the establishment and maintenance of a capability to document and manage existing spectrum assets and to perform required electromagnetic compatibility analyses and studies to support effective use of spectrum-dependent systems in electromagnetic environments and accomplish national security and military objectives in accordance with DOD Directive 3222.3, "Department of Defense Electromagnetic Compatibility Program (EMCP)." In response to this direction, the Department began development of the Global Electromagnetic Spectrum Information System (GEMSIS) in 2008 that will meet DOD's requirement for a long-term (future) spectrum automation architecture. The first increment of GEMSIS will focus on the development and fielding of a near-term solution for improving spectrum supportability - the Coalition Joint Spectrum Management Planning Tool (CJSMPT), which will provide a web-enabled capability for spectrum supportability, frequency assignments, and spectrum planning activities. DOD has also initiated development of the Defense Spectrum Management Architecture (DSMA) and its associated transition strategy and roadmap. The DSMA is intended to establish the strategic framework to help guide the successive implementations and builds of GEMSIS.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should establish and ensure appropriate funding for a program of record to develop a spectrum management automation architecture and to implement current and future spectrum management automation development efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its final response to GAO's report, DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation that DOD should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD/AT&L) to be accountable for oversight and enforcement of spectrum management in the acquisition process. DOD agreed with the need to ensure spectrum supportability for all systems in the acquisition process, but noted that it believed expanding OUSD/AT&L's direct oversight function was not required. Rather, it believed that existing organizational responsibilities and mechanisms could be leveraged to accomplish the goals of GAO's recommendation. According to an OASD/NII representative, coordination of spectrum supportability issues between OUSD/AT&L and OASD/NII have improved greatly since we made this recommendation. In particular, OUSD/AT&L's reviews of system engineering plans - one of a program's key acquisition documents - have stressed the need to assess document spectrum supportability as part of the system engineering process. However, the Department has not changed its position on this recommendation; DOD does not believe that formal identification of an official or officials within OUSD/AT&L is necessary.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to be accountable for oversight and enforcement of spectrum management in the acquisition process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its final response to GAO's report, DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation that DOD should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD/AT&L) to establish a mechanism to identify to the spectrum management community new systems that may ultimately require spectrum certification. DOD agreed with the need to ensure spectrum supportability for all systems in the acquisition process, but noted that it believed expanding OUSD/AT&L's direct oversight function was not required. Rather, it believed that existing organizational responsibilities and mechanisms could be leveraged to accomplish the goals of GAO's recommendation. According to an OASD/NII representative, while coordination of spectrum supportability matters between OUSD/AT&L and OASD/NII has improved greatly since we made this recommendation, the Department has not changed its position on this recommendation; DOD does not believe that formal identification of an official or officials within OUSD/AT&L is necessary.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to establish a mechanism to identify to the spectrum management community new systems that may ultimately require spectrum certification.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its final response to GAO's report, DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation that DOD should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD/AT&L) to establish a mechanism that provides the spectrum management community program schedule data for systems that may require spectrum certification, both to facilitate their prioritization of work effort, and enable measurement of process enforcement and responsiveness. DOD agreed with the need to ensure spectrum supportability for all appropriate systems in the acquisition process, but noted that an expanded OUSD/AT&L direct oversight function was not required. Rather, it believed that existing organizational responsibilities and mechanisms could be leveraged and emphasized to safeguard against systems progressing through development without timely and sufficient consideration of spectrum supportability. According to an OASD/NII representative, coordination of spectrum supportability issues between OUSD/AT&L and OASD/NII has improved greatly since we made this recommendation. In addition, spectrum supportability considerations have become an important element of the needs assessments conducted under the Joint Staff's Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) - assessments which precede the development of new systems. However, the Department has not changed its position on this recommendation; DOD does not believe that formal identification of an official or officials within OUSD/AT&L is necessary.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to establish a mechanism that provides the spectrum management community program schedule data for systems that may require spectrum certification both to facilitate their prioritization of work effort and enable measurement of process enforcement and responsiveness.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its final response to GAO's report, DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation that DOD should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD/AT&L) to establish a mechanism to ensure--in line with DOD Directive 4650.1--that programs requiring spectrum certification do not proceed beyond Milestone B of the acquisition process without approved spectrum certification unless the designated official (or officials) has granted the program a waiver based upon appropriate cause, risk mitigation strategy, and compliance deadline. DOD stated that it agreed with the need to ensure spectrum supportability for all appropriate systems in the acquisition process, but noted that an expanded OUSD/AT&L direct oversight function was not required. Rather, it believed that existing organizational responsibilities and mechanisms could be leveraged and emphasized to safeguard against systems progressing through development without timely and sufficient consideration of spectrum supportability. According to an OASD/NII representative, while coordination of spectrum supportability matters between OUSD/AT&L and OASD/NII has improved greatly since we made this recommendation, the Department has not changed its position; DOD does not believe that formal identification of an official or officials within OUSD/AT&L is necessary.

    Recommendation: To ensure that spectrum supportability considerations are appropriately addressed in the development and acquisition of weapons systems, the Secretary of Defense should identify an official or officials within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to establish a mechanism to ensure--in line with DOD Directive 4650.1--that programs requiring spectrum certification do not proceed beyond Milestone B of the acquisition process without approved spectrum certification. In order to allow acquisition flexibility when required, waivers may be allowed by the official or officials identified within the Office of the Under Secretary based on appropriate cause, risk mitigation strategy, and compliance deadline.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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