Defense Infrastructure:

Full Costs and Security Implications of Cheyenne Mountain Realignment Have Not Been Determined

GAO-07-803R: Published: May 21, 2007. Publicly Released: May 21, 2007.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) built the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center located near Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the early 1960s to withstand a multimegaton-yield-weapon strike and to provide protection against chemical and biological warfare. The mission of the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate is to monitor, process, and interpret air, missile, and space events that could threaten North America or have operational effects on U.S. forces or capabilities. This mission is conducted at five major centers--the Command Center, Air Warning, Missile Correlation, Operations Intelligence Watch, and Space Control--all currently located within Cheyenne Mountain. Elements of United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and Air Force Space Command are also located in Cheyenne Mountain. The Air Force's modernization of the attack warning systems within Cheyenne Mountain will cost more than $700 million from fiscal years 2000 through 2006. DOD officials have stated that they no longer need to continue operating in this hardened facility considering that the threat of an intercontinental ballistic missile strike in today's environment is low. In July 2006, the former Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM announced plans to move certain functions from Cheyenne Mountain and create an integrated command center at Peterson Air Force Base, which he projected at that time would save between $150 million and $200 million per year. Additionally, USSTRATCOM announced plans to relocate its missile warning mission from Cheyenne Mountain to Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and Air Force Space Command is in the process of moving the Space Control Center from Cheyenne Mountain to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and USNORTHCOM officials told us that after these functions have been moved, Cheyenne Mountain will be used as an alternate command center, a continuity of operations relocation facility, and a training center. You asked us to determine (1) the estimated costs, savings, and benefits associated with moving functions from Cheyenne Mountain to other locations; and (2) how DOD evaluated the security implications associated with moving the functions, and what these implications are.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM could not provide documentation to support the $150 million to $200 million savings projected by the former Commander from moving functions from Cheyenne Mountain to Peterson Air Force Base. As of April 2007, NORAD and USNORTHCOM officials have identified at least $41.7 million in onetime costs and $5.5 million in recurring costs related to the move; however, the full costs will not be determined until the completion of ongoing security assessments. In fiscal years 2006 and 2007, NORAD and USNORTHCOM allocated $26.7 million for conducting studies, purchasing needed equipment related to the relocation, and renovating the command center at Peterson Air Force Base. Renovation of the command center is scheduled to begin in June 2007 and be completed in December 2007. NORAD and USNORTHCOM officials are planning to allocate $15 million in fiscal year 2008 to purchase the remaining equipment for the integrated command center and program management support. Additional costs will likely be incurred based on the results of ongoing studies related to security requirements. According to NORAD and USNORTHCOM officials, it could take up to 24 months to obtain the resources needed to meet the designated protection level requirements. If requirements for the designated protection level cannot be met because of funding and resource constraints, waivers will be needed to begin operations or specific systems may remain in Cheyenne Mountain.

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

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider restricting DOD's authority to use funds to renovate new locations to accept functions designated to move out of Cheyenne Mountain until such time as all security analyses are complete, the full costs of the move are determined, and DOD provides Congress with an analysis of the operational effects of the proposed realignments.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2007, GAO recommended that Congress should consider restricting the Department of Defense's authority to use funds to renovate locations to accept functions designed to move out of Cheyenne Mountain until such time as all security analyses are complete, the full costs of the move are determined, and DOD provides Congress with an analysis of the operational effects of the proposed realignments. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the relocation of the North American Aerospace Defense Command center from Cheyenne Mountain by no later than March 1, 2008, and limits the availability of $5 million in fiscal year 2008 funds for Air Force operation and maintenance of Cheyenne Mountain until Congress receives the report from the Secretary of Defense.

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