Force Structure:

Improved Strategic Planning Can Enhance DOD's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Efforts

GAO-04-342: Published: Mar 17, 2004. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 2004.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Sharon L. Pickup
(757) 552-8100
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The current generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been under development for defense applications since the 1980s. UAVs were used in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003 to observe, track, target, and strike enemy forces. These successes have heightened interest in UAVs within the Department of Defense (DOD) and the services. GAO was asked to (1) determine how much funding DOD requested, was appropriated, and was obligated for major UAV development efforts during fiscal years 1999-2003 and (2) assess whether DOD's approach to planning for UAVs provides reasonable assurance that its investment in UAVs will facilitate their integration into the force structure.

During the past 5 fiscal years, Congress provided more funding for UAV development and procurement than requested by DOD, and to date the services have obligated most of these funds. To promote rapid employment of UAVs, Congress has provided nearly $2.7 billion for UAV development and procurement compared with the $2.3 billion requested by DOD. Because Congress has appropriated more funds than requested, the services are able to acquire systems at a greater rate than planned. For example, in fiscal year 2003, the Air Force requested $23 million to buy 7 Predator UAVs, but Congress provided over $131 million--enough to buy 29 Predators. DOD's approach to planning for developing and fielding UAVs does not provide reasonable assurance that its investment in UAVs will facilitate their integration into the force structure efficiently, although DOD has taken positive steps to improve the UAV program's management. In 2001 DOD established a joint Planning Task Force in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. To communicate its vision and promote commonality of UAV systems, in 2002, the Task Force published the UAV Roadmap, which describes current programs, identifies potential missions, and provides guidance on emerging technologies. While the Roadmap identifies guidance and priority goals for UAV development, neither it nor other key documents represent a comprehensive strategic plan to ensure that the services and DOD agencies develop systems that complement each other, perform all required missions, and avoid duplication. Moreover, the Task Force serves in an advisory capacity to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, but has little authority to enforce program direction. Service officials indicated that their service-specific planning documents were developed to meet their own needs and operational concepts without considering those of other services. Without a strategic plan and an oversight body with sufficient authority to enforce program direction, DOD risks fielding a poorly integrated UAV force structure, which could increase costs and the risk of future interoperability problems.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To enhance management control over the UAV program, the Secretary of Defense should establish a strategic plan or set of plans that are based on mission requirements to guide UAV development and fielding by modifying the Roadmap or developing another document or documents and, at a minimum, ensure that the plan links operational requirements with development plans to ensure that the services develop systems that complement each other, will perform the range of missions needed, and avoid duplication.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In the Defense Audit Management Information Systems (DAMIS) report, last modified on July 26, 2004, DOD did not concur with the premise for this recommendation. In response, DOD indicated no planned or continuation action and listed the status of this recommendation as closed. They explain that while the UAV Roadmap is not a broad UAV strategic plan based on mission area or requirements; because UAV can fill many capability roles, it is the Joint Staff's Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) that should develop strategic plans for developing UAV capabilities in each of its functional areas. Thus, they do not view it as appropriate for OSD's AT&L to develop a strategic plan for UAV systems, but rather to work with the Joint Staff in developing detailed mission capability plans that include UAV systems and capabilities. Subsequent to this DAMIS report update, GAO follow-on efforts resulting in GAO report, GAO-05-049 and testimony GAO-06-601T concluded that no DOD actions have been taken to establish a UAV strategic plan. Based on this response and lack of DOD action, GAO does not consider it a reasonable expectation that DOD will implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enhance management control over the UAV program, the Secretary of Defense should designate the UAV Task Force or another appropriate organization to oversee the implementation of a UAV strategic plan; provide this organization with sufficient authority to enforce the plan's direction, and promote joint operations and the efficient expenditure of funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Not concurring with this recommendation, DOD, in its last update in July 2004, to the Defense Audit Management Information System, included no planned or continuation action on this recommendation and listed its status as closed. In their comments, DOD stated the primary role of the UAV Planning Task Force is to provide oversight and make recommendations in a number of specific areas of UAV development. Through this task force, they believe the AT&L has sufficient oversight and influence to integrate UAV capability into combatant commanders' operational forces and that through the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution Process, they can enforce UAV program activities across services. In a follow on GAO report, GAO-05-049, and testimony, GAO-06-601T, GAO found that DOD continues to develop a wide array of UAVs with no designated oversight organization that has authority to promote and enforce joint operational development and efficient expenditures of funds. While DOD has established several additional oversight bodies, there was no evidence that they will be able to influence service UAS investment decisions or deployment. Based on this response and the results of our follow on efforts, GAO does not consider it a reasonable expectation that DOD will implement this recommendation.

    Apr 22, 2014

    Apr 18, 2014

    Apr 16, 2014

    Apr 11, 2014

    Apr 10, 2014

    Apr 9, 2014

    Apr 8, 2014

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here