Defense Acquisitions:

Production and Fielding of Missile Defense Components Continue with Less Testing and Validation Than Planned

GAO-09-338: Published: Mar 13, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 2009.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Cristina T. Chaplain
(202) 512-3000
contact@gao.gov

 

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

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has spent about $56 billion and will spend about $50 billion more through 2013 to develop a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). GAO was directed to assess the annual progress MDA made in developing the BMDS as well as improvements in accountability and transparency in agency operations, management processes, and the new block strategy. To accomplish this, GAO reviewed contractor cost, schedule, and performance; tests completed; and the assets fielded during 2008. GAO also reviewed pertinent sections of the U.S. Code, acquisition policy, and the activities of the new Missile Defense Executive Board (MDEB). An appendix on the effect the cancellation of a Ground-based Midcourse Defense flight test had on BMDS development is also included.

Cost: MDA has not yet established baselines for total costs or unit costs, both fundamental markers most programs use to measure progress. Consequently, for the sixth year, GAO has not been able to assess MDA's actual costs against a baseline of either total costs or unit costs. MDA planned to establish such baselines in 2008 in response to past GAO recommendations, but has delayed this until 2009. GAO was able to assess the cost performance on individual contracts, and project an overrun at completion of between $2 billion and $3 billion. However, because in some cases the budgeted costs at completion--the basis for our projection--has changed significantly over time as adjustments were made, this projection does not capture as cost growth the difference between the original and current budgeted costs at completion. In one case, these costs increased by approximately five times its original value. Performance and Testing: While MDA completed several key tests that demonstrated enhanced performance of the BMDS, all elements of the system had test delays and shortfalls. Overall, testing achieved less than planned. For example, none of the six Director's test knowledge points established by MDA for 2008 were achieved. Poor performing target missiles have been a persistent problem. Testing shortfalls have slowed the validation of models and simulations, which are needed to assess the system's overall performance. Consequently, the performance of the BMDS as a whole can not yet be determined. Schedule: Although fewer tests have been conducted than planned, the production and fielding of assets has proceeded closer to schedule. Except for no ground-based interceptors being delivered, all other radars, standard missiles, and software were delivered as planned. However, some deliveries, such as enhanced Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles, will now precede test results. In most cases, MDA has also reduced the bases it planned to use to declare when capabilities are operational in the field. Thus, fielding decisions are being made with a reduced understanding of system effectiveness. Transparency, Accountability, and Oversight: Improvement in this area has been limited. The Missile Defense Executive Board (MDEB) has acted with increased authority in providing oversight of MDA and the BMDS. However, transparency and accountability into MDA's work is limited by the management fluidity afforded through the lack of cost baselines, an unstable test baseline, continued use of development funds to produce assets for fielding, and renewed potential for transferring work from one predefined block to another. A better balance must still be struck between the information Congress and the Department of Defense need to conduct oversight of the BMDS and the flexibility MDA needs to manage across the portfolio of assets that collectively constitute the system's capability. At this point, the balance does not provide sufficient information for effective oversight.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken actions to fully implement it. As we reported in February 2010, the extent of the Missile Defense Executive Boards (MDEB) efforts to improve DOD internal oversight was less than planned. However, throughout 2010, the MDEB began refocusing its efforts through its subcommittees, yet has continued to delay activities necessary to enhance transparency and oversight. For example, after reviewing one MDA element early in fiscal year 2009, MDEB reviews of individual MDA programs were put on hold during the remainder of the fiscal year. To date, most of the board's actions have focused primarily on budgetary decisions for the BMDS and only two programs, Aegis BMD and THAAD, have been reviewed as planned.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the MDEB to assess how the transparency and accountability of MDA's acquisitions can be strengthened to enhance oversight, such as by adopting relevant aspects of DOD's normal requirements, acquisition and budgeting processes, without losing the beneficial features of MDA's existing flexibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken actions to implement it. MDA is currently implementing a new acquisition strategy and is no longer pursuing a block strategy. As a result, the recommendation was not implemented.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of cost, complete total cost baselines before requesting additional funding for Blocks 2.0 and 3.0 and commit to a date when baselines for all blocks will be established.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken actions to implement it. MDA is currently implementing a new acquisition strategy and is no longer pursuing a block structure. As a result, the recommendation was not implemented.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of cost, ensure that transfers of work from one block to another are transparent and reported as cost variances.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) concurred with this recommendation. In the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense System Accountability Report (BAR), MDA outlines its methodology for developing unit costs and reporting thresholds. Additionally it provides unit costs for the major programs associated with the Ballistic Missile Defense System. As such, MDA has implemented GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of cost, provide additional unit costs reports, beyond flyaway unit costs, that incorporate both procurement and research and development funding so that there is a more comprehensive understanding of the progress of the acquisitions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments to this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation and has developed a test plan covering five years instead of two years. MDA finalized this five-year Integrated Master Test Plan (IMTP) during summer 2009 with IMTP Version 10.01. MDA has subsequently updated the IMTP multiple times and will release IMTP Version 10.2 in August 2010.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of testing and performance, expand the BMDS test baseline to include tests scheduled beyond the first succeeding year of the plan to ensure its synchronization with BMDS contracts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments to this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation and is developing a test plan in consultation with DOT&E. MDA finalized and reported a five-year Integrated Master Test Plan which included additional data to assess the performance of the BMDS elements.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of testing and performance, ensure that the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), is consulted before making significant changes to the test baseline so that the tests planned provide DOT&E with sufficient data to assess the performance of the BMDS elements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments to this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation and developed a new test plan that included additional data requirements needed for models and simulations.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of testing and performance, ensure that planned test objectives include concrete data requirements anchoring models and simulations to real-world tests, synchronized with flight and ground test plans and that the effects on models and simulations of test cancellations, delays or problems are clearly identified and reported.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation but did not take any actions necessary to implement it. As a result, the recommendation was not implemented.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of testing and performance, reassess the flight tests scheduled for the end of fiscal year 2009 to ensure that they can be reasonably conducted and analyzed given targets and other constraints.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) partially concurred with this recommendation. However, as we reported in our 2010 and 2011 annual mandate, MDA continues to concurrently develop, manufacture and field assests prior to their performance being validated through testing.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of knowledge-based decisions, synchronize the development, manufacturing, and fielding schedules of BMDS assets with the testing and validation schedules to ensure that items are not manufactured for fielding before their performance has been validated through testing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) concurred with this recommendation but has not yet successfully conducted this test. MDA did attempt a CE-I test in July 2013, but if failed to achieve an intercept. GMD has not yet determined the cause, nor have the determined whether they will be re-conducting this test. According to the fiscal year 2014 test plan, the program is planning to conduct a CE-I test, however MDA has not yet finalized the test, nor the objectives. Additionally, according to their most recent flight test baseline (approved and dated March 31, 2014) the test is not planned for several years (fourth quarter, fiscal year 2018) and therefore subject to change.

    Recommendation: In the near term, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of knowledge-based decisions, conduct a flight test of the Capability Enhancement-I Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (CE-I EKV) against a complex target scene with countermeasures to complete MDA's previous testing goal of understanding the performance capabilities of the first 24 fielded Ground-based Interceptor (GBIs).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  11. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, MDA concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken any actions necessary to implement it. The agency is currently implementing a new acquisition strategy and will no longer pursue the block strategy. As a result, the recommendation was not implemented.

    Recommendation: In the near term the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to, in the area of knowledge-based decisions, strengthen the capability declarations by using the complete analysis from annual performance assessments as the basis for declaring engagement sequence groups as fully capable and block development as fully complete; otherwise, indicate the limitations of the capabilities and steps that MDA will take to reduce the risks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 30, 2014

Sep 25, 2014

Sep 23, 2014

Sep 19, 2014

Sep 18, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Sep 9, 2014

Sep 8, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here