31 March 2010

GAO Reviews Major Weapons Programs

A new GAO report summarizes the state of 70 out of 102 defense major acquisition programs that are non-secret and in the R&D or early stage production stages (182 page pdf document). Previous reports in the series have led to the Secretary of Defense recommending the cancellation of major projects in the R&D phase and early termination of major projects in the production phase. In response to the earlier reports:

The Secretary of Defense proposed a fiscal year 2010 budget that ended or curtailed all or part of at least a half dozen major defense acquisition programs such as the Air Force’s F-22A Raptor, the Army’s Future Combat System, the Navy’s DDG 1000 destroyer, and the Missile Defense Agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle—that were over cost, behind schedule, or no longer suited to meet the warfighters’ current needs.

The Department of Defense failed to meet deadlines to give information about its programs to the GAO as a representative of Congress, in the 2009 Presidential transition year, and was roundly criticized for taking on projects that were too technologically ambitious and for letting design and manufacturing issues linger unresolved far too late in the procurement process.

The one to two page program assessments are one of the easiest and most accessable sources for a comprehensive and comparable set of explanations of what's new in U.S. military technology. This is also a report card for the nation's major defense contractors and defense procurement officials, a mostly bad one although some signs of improvement were noted.

Deep problems were identified with programs including the F-35, both prototype designs of the Littoral Combat Ship (and each of its mission modules), and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

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