Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance:

DOD Can Better Assess and Integrate ISR Capabilities and Oversee Development of Future ISR Requirements

GAO-08-374: Published: Mar 24, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 2008.

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The Department of Defense's (DOD) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities-such as satellites and unmanned aircraft systems-are crucial to military operations, and demand for ISR capabilities has increased. For example, DOD plans to invest $28 billion over the next 7 years in 20 airborne ISR systems alone. Congress directed DOD to fully integrate its ISR capabilities, also known as the ISR enterprise, as it works to meet current and future ISR needs. GAO was asked to (1) describe the challenges, if any, that DOD faces in integrating its ISR enterprise, (2) assess DOD's management approach for improving integration of its future ISR investments, and (3) evaluate the extent to which DOD has implemented key activities to ensure proposed new ISR capabilities fill gaps, are not duplicative, and use a joint approach to meeting warfighters' needs. GAO assessed DOD's integration initiatives and 19 proposals for new ISR capabilities. We supplemented this analysis with discussions with DOD officials.

DOD faces a complex and challenging environment in supporting defense requirements for ISR capabilities as well as national intelligence efforts. Past efforts to improve integration across DOD and national intelligence agencies have been hampered by the diverse missions and different institutional cultures of the many intelligence agencies that DOD supports. For example, DOD had difficulty obtaining complete information on national ISR assets that could support military operations because of security classifications of other agency documents. Further, different funding arrangements for defense and national intelligence activities complicate integration of interagency activities. While DOD develops the defense intelligence budget, some DOD activities also receive funding through the national intelligence budget to provide support for national intelligence efforts. Disagreements about equitable funding from each budget have led to program delays. Separate military and intelligence requirements identification processes also complicate efforts to integrate future ISR investments. DOD does not have a clearly defined vision of a future ISR enterprise to guide its ISR investments. DOD has taken a significant step toward integrating its ISR activities by developing an ISR Integration Roadmap that includes existing and currently planned ISR systems. However, the Roadmap does not provide a long-term view of what capabilities are required to achieve strategic goals or provide detailed information that would make it useful as a basis for deciding among alternative investments. Without a clear vision of the desired ISR end state and sufficient detail on existing and planned systems, DOD decision makers lack a basis for determining where additional capabilities are required, prioritizing investments, or assessing progress in achieving strategic goals, as well as identifying areas where further investment may not be warranted. DOD policy calls for the services and agencies that sponsor proposals for new ISR capabilities to conduct comprehensive assessments of current and planned ISR systems, but GAO's review of 19 proposals showed that 12 sponsors did not complete assessments, and the completeness of the remaining 7 sponsors' assessments varied. GAO found that the DOD board charged with reviewing ISR proposals did not consistently coordinate with sponsors to ensure the quality of the assessments supporting their proposals or review the completed assessments. There were three key reasons for this. First, the board did not have a comprehensive, readily available source of information about existing and developmental ISR capabilities that could help identify alternatives to new systems. Second, the board has no monitoring mechanism to ensure that key activities are fully implemented. Third, DOD board officials said that the board lacks adequate numbers of dedicated, skilled personnel to engage in early coordination with sponsors and to review sponsors' assessments. Without more complete information on alternatives and a monitoring mechanism to ensure these key activities are fully implemented, DOD is not in the best position to ensure that investment decisions are consistent with departmentwide priorities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although DOD agreed with the need for systematic procedures for reviewing capabilities-based assessments, it disagreed that additional direction is required.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a supervisory review or other monitoring mechanism to ensure that (1) the Battlespace Awareness Functional Capabilities Board and the sponsors engage in early coordination to facilitate sponsors' consideration of existing and developmental ISR capabilities in developing their capabilities-based assessments, (2) capabilities-based assessments are completed, and (3) the Battlespace Awareness Functional Capabilities Board uses systematic procedures for reviewing the assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has developed a database of information on current and planned ISR capabilities to assist the services and support the joint requirements identification process. The database is available on DOD's classified computer system to approved users, including service intelligence staffs and combatant commanders, to use in conducting capabilities-based assessments. Furthermore, the database is used by decisionmakers in considering proposals to develop new capabilites.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to collaborate, with one of these organizations assigned as the lead, in developing a comprehensive source of information, which augments the ISR Integration Roadmap, on all existing and developmental ISR capabilities throughout the ISR enterprise for sponsors to use in conducting capabilities-based assessments and for the Battlespace Awareness Functional Capabilities Board to use in evaluating them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department agreed with the recommendation and stated that work is underway to develop a vision of a future intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) architecture that addresses a longer period of time than the 5-year ISR budget and is based on an independent analysis of expected future requirements and strategic goals. In May 2009, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence provided a program of action and milestones for refining the ISR architecture for 2010-2030. The Department issued a reviewed ISR Integration Roadmap in early 2010 and it addresses a longer period of time than the 5-year budget, as GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to develop a vision of a future ISR architecture that addresses a longer period of time than the 5-year ISR budget and is based on an independent analysis of expected future requirements and strategic goals. This architecture should be sufficiently detailed to inform a comprehensive assessment and prioritization of capability gaps and overlaps, to allow decision makers to evaluate tradeoffs between competing needs, and to assess progress in addressing capability gaps and overlaps in order to achieve ISR strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree with this recommendation. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD said that the Joint Staff conducted and FY07 review of functional capabilities personnel and resources and did not identify any deficiencies. In the area of training, the Joint Staff has already established a new mandatory training course for all "Requirements Managers" that will certify them in writing, reviewing, development and approval of requirements for Major Defense Acquisitions Programs. We continue to believe that a review of personnel and resources is needed, in view of the deficiencies in implementing current integration processes.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to (1) review the Battlespace Awareness Functional Capabilities Board's staffing levels and expertise and workload to engage in early coordination with sponsors and review capabilities-based assessments, and (2) if shortfalls are identified, develop a plan that addresses any identified shortfalls of personnel, resources, or training, assigns responsibility for actions, and establishes time frames for implementing the plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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