oversight

Defense Acquisitions: Matching Resources with Requirements Is Key to the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Program's Success

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-06-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to the Subcommittee on
             Tactical Air and Land Forces,
             Committee on Armed Services,
             House of Representatives

June 2003
             DEFENSE
             ACQUISITIONS
             Matching Resources
             with Requirements Is
             Key to the Unmanned
             Combat Air Vehicle
             Program’s Success




GAO-03-598
                                                June 2003


                                                DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS

                                                Matching Resources with Requirements
Highlights of GAO-03-598, a report to the       Is Key to the Unmanned Combat Air
Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land
Forces, Committee on Armed Services,            Vehicle Program’s Success
House of Representatives




The Department of Defense (DOD)                 The UCAV program’s original performance objectives posed manageable
is developing a new unmanned                    challenges to build an affordable, highly survivable, and lethal weapon
combat air vehicle (UCAV) that can              system. The Air Force, however, added requirements for electronic attack
suppress enemy air defenses and                 and increased flying range after DOD accelerated the program’s product
conduct other air-to-ground                     development schedule by 3 years. These changes widened the gap between
attacks, particularly against heavily
defended targets. Because it may
                                                the customer’s requirements and the developer’s resources, specifically time,
perform these missions at a                     reducing the probability that the program would deliver production aircraft
relatively low cost, the UCAV could             on cost, on schedule, and with anticipated performance capabilities.
be used to replace some of DOD’s
aging tactical aircraft fleet. A key to         DOD has recently decided to adopt a new joint service approach to UCAV
UCAV’s success will lie in DOD’s                development that provides more time to close the requirements—resource
ability to match users’ needs, or               gap before product development starts. It appears DOD may add new
requirements, with the developer’s              content because it is proposing to build a new prototype that would be a
resources (technology and design                larger air vehicle, capable of flying and carrying out combat missions for
knowledge, money, and time) when                longer periods of time. To reduce technical risk, DOD anticipates delaying
product development begins. Our                 the start of product development for several years in order to address new
work shows that doing so can
prevent rework and save both time
                                                requirements.
and money. Therefore, we assessed
DOD’s ability to make this match.               As a gap between resources and requirements widened in 2002, risks
GAO conducted its work on the                   projected for the start of product development with UCAV’s 15 technologies,
basis of the Comptroller General’s              processes and system attributes increased significantly. The new joint plan
authority and addresses the report              brings the risks back down. This action also allows competition back into
to the Subcommittee because of its              the UCAV development effort.
interest and jurisdiction in the
program.                                        DOD will still face challenges in controlling joint, multimission requirements
                                                and ensuring that both services continue to provide funds for the program
                                                while also funding other large aircraft investments. If these challenges are
We recommend that DOD develop                   not met, the gap between requirements and resources could resurface.
a joint UCAV acquisition approach               DOD’s role will continue to be instrumental in helping to negotiate
that balances requirements and                  requirements, assure resources are in place, and make difficult program
resources at the start of product               trade-offs.
development. We also recommend
that the Secretary formalize the                Risk Levels Projected at Start of Product Development under Different UCAV Plans
UCAV management role performed
by his office, ensure that the
services are fully involved in the
process, and work to develop an
efficient approach to transition the
UCAV to the product development
phase so the needs of the war
fighter can be met more quickly.


www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-598.

To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Paul Francis at
(202) 512-2811 or francisp@gao.gov.
Contents


Letter                                                                                1
             Results in Brief                                                         2
             Background                                                               3
             Importance of Matching Resources with Requirements before
               Product Development                                                    5
             Gap between UCAV Resources and Requirements Was Increased
               in 2002                                                                7
             Recent DOD Decision to Restructure Program Can Reduce Risks             14
             Conclusion                                                              19
             Recommendations for Executive Action                                    19
             Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                      20
             Scope and Methodology                                                   20

Appendix I   Comments from the Department of Defense                                 22



Tables
             Table 1: Current Risk Level of UCAV Technologies, Processes, and
                      System Attributes                                               9
             Table 2: Chronology of Changes to the Air Force UCAV Acquisition
                      Program Schedule Since 2000                                    11
             Table 3: Comparisons of UCAV Variants                                   14


Figures
             Figure 1: Boeing X-45A Demonstrator in Flight                            4
             Figure 2: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45B Prototype               5
             Figure 3: Timing of the Match between Customer Requirements
                      and Resources                                                   7
             Figure 4: Effect of Accelerated Product Development Start on
                      Program Risk                                                   13
             Figure 5: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45C                        15
             Figure 6: Computer Rendition of the Northrop Grumman X-47B              16
             Figure 7: Effect of Delayed Product Development Start on
                      Program Risk                                                   17




             Page i                                   GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
Abbreviations

DARPA             Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
SEAD              suppression of enemy air defenses
UCAV              Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle




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Page ii                                              GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   June 30, 2003

                                   The Honorable Curt Weldon
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Neil Abercrombie
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces
                                   Committee on Armed Services
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Department of Defense (DOD) is in the initial stages of developing a
                                   new unmanned air vehicle capable of suppressing enemy air defenses
                                   and carrying out other types of air-to-ground attacks, particularly against
                                   heavily defended targets. Because of its potential to perform these
                                   missions at a relatively low cost, this new air vehicle could foster efforts
                                   to replace DOD’s aging tactical aircraft fleet.

                                   The air vehicle is being developed under the Unmanned Combat Air
                                   Vehicle (UCAV) program. This is an advanced technology demonstration
                                   program, still in a pre-acquisition phase, with two demonstrator UCAVs
                                   being flown to assess technologies and capabilities. Launch of a formal
                                   product development program was expected to occur next fiscal year
                                   but has since been delayed. We conducted our work on the basis of the
                                   Comptroller General’s authority and have addressed the report to you
                                   because your expressed interest in the program as a committee of
                                   jurisdiction.

                                   The start of product development—signified by a Milestone B decision—
                                   represents the point at which program managers make a commitment to
                                   DOD and the Congress that the UCAV will perform as required and be
                                   delivered on time and within estimated costs. Our work has shown
                                   that programs are more likely to succeed if program managers are
                                   able to achieve a match between user needs, which eventually become
                                   requirements, and resources (technology, design and production
                                   knowledge, money, and time) at the start of product development.
                                   Conversely, if they do not match requirements with resources, cost
                                   overruns and schedule delays are likely to occur, reducing DOD’s buying
                                   power in other areas.




                                   Page 1                                       GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                   Consequently, this report analyzes requirements1 and schedule changes
                   made during pre-acquisition and their effects on DOD’s ability to achieve
                   this match. The report also assesses a recent decision to expand the
                   program—both in terms of the military services that will be involved with
                   it and in terms of the design and capability of the air vehicle—and that
                   decision’s effect on DOD’s ability to match requirements to resources.

                   Our report focuses on the UCAV program managed by the Air Force and
                   the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA
                   has also been working with the Navy on a UCAV, but until recently its
                   transition to the product development phase was further off in the future.
                   We did not assess the Navy’s effort except to the extent that it was
                   included in the recently established joint program.


                   From 2000 through 2002, decisions to get more capability in less time
Results in Brief   widened the gap between UCAV resources and requirements. The UCAV
                   program’s original requirements posed significant, but manageable
                   challenges to build an air vehicle that is affordable throughout its life
                   cycle, highly survivable, and lethal. Subsequently, however, the Air Force
                   added requirements for an electronic attack mission and increased flying
                   range. Also, DOD accelerated the program’s product development
                   schedule by 3 years. Those actions widened the gap between requirements
                   and resources and increased the challenge for the development program.

                   DOD has recently decided to adopt a new joint Air Force and Navy
                   approach to UCAV development that provides more time to close the
                   requirements-resource gap before product development starts. Details
                   concerning the new acquisition strategy behind this approach have not
                   yet been worked out. However, the program could increase requirements
                   since DOD is proposing to develop a new prototype that would essentially
                   be a larger air vehicle, capable of carrying out combat missions for longer
                   periods of time. DOD currently anticipates delaying product development
                   by several years in order to address new requirements. This delay would
                   help to reduce technical risks, but initial fielding of the new air vehicle
                   would be delayed as well. Having the Air Force and the Navy work jointly
                   on a UCAV program is more efficient than two separate programs. At the



                   1
                    Formal requirements for the UCAV program have not yet been established. However,
                   program objectives based on customer expectations have been established for specific
                   missions the UCAV is expected to perform. We refer to these as requirements in this report.




                   Page 2                                              GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
             same time, the participation of two services will increase the challenges
             of sustaining funding and managing requirements.

             GAO is making recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on
             maintaining flexibility to make the tradeoffs necessary to bring and
             keep the UCAV’s requirements and resources in balance and to ensure his
             office maintains the constructive role it has played in the program so far.


             DOD has been successfully using unmanned air vehicles such as the
Background   Global Hawk and Predator to gather intelligence and perform surveillance
             and reconnaissance missions for military purposes. Beginning in the
             mid-1990s, DOD began to conceive of a different type of unmanned air
             vehicle—the unmanned combat air vehicle or UCAV—which would be
             capable of performing dangerous, lethal combat missions, including
             suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD).2 Unlike other unmanned air
             vehicles, UCAVs would carry weapons as well as electronic jammers to
             confuse enemy radars. DOD also envisioned that the air vehicle would
             operate more autonomously than other unmanned air vehicles, requiring
             little or no human input from ground stations to complete their missions
             or change flight paths. In addition, UCAVs would be stealthy and capable
             of flying in groups or with manned aircraft.

             The potential of these weapons has garnered high interest from both
             Congress and DOD. In the fiscal year 2001 Defense Authorization Act,
             Congress set a goal that by 2010, one-third of DOD’s deep strike force be
             unmanned in order to perform this dangerous mission.3 In addition to
             the potential for saving lives on risky missions, the UCAV could provide
             mission capability at less cost than manned aircraft. Program officials
             initially aimed for the UCAV’s acquisition cost to be one-third of the joint
             strike fighter and operations and support costs to be at least 75 percent
             lower. Because of the promise of unmanned air vehicles, the Office of
             Secretary of Defense has established a joint-service unmanned air vehicles
             task force to help promote the development and fielding of these systems,
             including making sure that there is multiservice cooperation. This task




             2
              Suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions are those directed at destroying or
             interrupting the ability of ground-based missiles, either fixed or mobile, to locate, target,
             and/or destroy U.S. aircraft.
             3
                 Pub. L. No. 106-398, Sec. 220 (2000).




             Page 3                                                 GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
force is responsible for outlining the future of DOD’s unmanned
air vehicles.

In the late 1990s, DARPA and the Air Force began pre-acquisition efforts
to conduct advanced technology demonstrations to show the technical
feasibility of using UCAVs to penetrate deeply into enemy territory to
attack enemy targets. Boeing Corporation was selected in 1999 to
develop and demonstrate two demonstrator UCAVs—designated X-45A.
(See fig. 1.)

Figure 1: Boeing X-45A Demonstrator in Flight




The DARPA-Air Force UCAV original plan also called for building and
demonstrating two prototypes during the pre-acquisition phase, called
X-45B, that are larger and incorporate low observable technology.
(See fig. 2.) These air vehicles were expected to be more representative
of the operational air vehicle that the Air Force planned to field. Initially,
the Air Combat Command, which establishes mission and performance
requirements, determined that the X-45B should be focused on performing
SEAD missions within the air superiority mission area. This decision
was made to address the limited inventory of current assets in the air
superiority mission area and to counter the challenges and deficiencies
associated with conducting SEAD missions.




Page 4                                          GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                     Figure 2: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45B Prototype




                     As of February 2003, 55 of 160 planned demonstrations have been
                     completed. Most of the demonstrations designed to validate the basic
                     flight characteristics of the air vehicle have been completed. Only a small
                     number of the demonstrations needed to validate the ability of a single air
                     vehicle to perform a preemptive destruction mission have been completed.
                     The more demanding demonstrations—those designed to demonstrate
                     technologies and software for highly autonomous, multivehicle operations
                     (with both manned aircraft and unmanned air vehicles), and the more
                     difficult aspects of the SEAD mission against mobile targets—have not
                     begun.


                     The product development decision that DOD is approaching for its
Importance of        UCAV program represents a commitment by the product developer to
Matching Resources   deliver a product at established cost, schedule, and performance targets
                     and identifies the amount of resources that will be necessary to do so.
with Requirements    Our studies of leading companies have shown that when requirements
before Product       and resources were matched before product development was started,
                     the more likely the development was able to meet performance, cost, and
Development          schedule objectives.4 When this took place later, programs encountered


                     4
                      U.S. General Accounting Office, BEST PRACTICES: Better Matching of Needs and
                     Resources Will Lead to Better Weapon System Outcomes, GA0-01-288 (Washington, D.C.:
                     Mar. 8, 2001).




                     Page 5                                           GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
problems such as increased cost, schedule delays, and
performance shortfalls.

A key to achieving this match is to ensure that the developer has the
resources—technology, design and production knowledge, money, and
time—needed to design, test, manufacture, and deliver the product. It is
not unusual for a customer to initially want a high-performing product that
does not cost much or take too long to develop. But such an expectation
may exceed the developer’s technology or engineering expertise, or it may
be more costly and time-consuming to create than the customer is willing
to accept. Therefore, a process of negotiations and trade-offs is usually
necessary to match customer requirements and developer resources
before firming requirements and committing to product development.
Our work has shown that successful programs will not commit to product
development until needed technologies are ready to satisfy product
requirements. In other words, technology development is separated from
product development. If technology is not sufficiently mature at the
beginning of a product development program, the program may need to
spend more time and money than anticipated to bring the technology to
the point to which it can meet the intended product’s performance
requirements.5

Testing is perhaps the main instrument used to gauge technology maturity.
Testing new technologies before they enter into a product development
program, as DOD is doing now by demonstrating the two X-45A
demonstrators, enables organizations to discover and correct problems
before a considerable investment is made in the program. By contrast,
problems found late in development may require more time, money, and
effort to fix because they may require more extensive retrofitting and
redesign as well as retesting. These problems are further exacerbated
when the product development schedule requires a number of activities to
be done concurrently. The need to address one problem can slow down
other work on the weapon system.

Figure 3 illustrates the timing of the match between a customer’s
requirements and a product developer’s resources for successful and
problematic programs we have reviewed.



5
 U.S. General Accounting Office, BEST PRACTICES: Better Management of
Technology Development Can Improve Weapon System Outcomes, GAO/NSIAD-99-162
(Washington, D.C.: July 30, 1999).




Page 6                                       GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                        Figure 3: Timing of the Match between Customer Requirements and Resources




                        During 2002, significant requirements were added to the UCAV program
Gap between UCAV        after the schedule was accelerated by 3 years. This step put the program at
Resources and           considerable risk because it increased the gap between requirements and
                        resources. The program added two new requirements—one for electronic
Requirements Was        attack capability and one for increased flying range—while reducing a
Increased in 2002       critical resource, time, to mature key UCAV technologies. As a result, the
                        Air Force and DARPA anticipated that most of the 15 key technologies,
                        system attributes, or processes supporting the aircraft’s basic capabilities
                        would move from all low risk to mostly medium risk of achieving desired
                        functionality by the time a product development decision was reached;
                        one would be at high risk.


UCAV Requirements       The UCAV program’s original requirements were difficult to meet because
Increased During 2002   they posed significant but manageable technical challenges to building
                        an air vehicle that is, at once, affordable throughout its life cycle, highly
                        survivable, and lethal. In the last year, both air vehicle and mission




                        Page 7                                       GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
equipment requirements were increased. The original requirements called
for a UCAV that would have

•   a low life-cycle cost, survivable design;
•   a mission control station that can fly single or multiple UCAVs at
    one time;
•   a secure command, control, and communications network;
•   completely autonomous vehicle operation from takeoff to landing;
•   off-board and on-board sensors with which to locate targets; and
•   human involvement in targeting, weapons delivery, and target
    damage assessment.

Once these requirements were established, the UCAV contractor identified
15 technologies, processes, and system attributes the UCAV would have
to possess to meet those requirements. These elements became a way to
gauge the level of knowledge (in terms of risk) that the contractors had.
Right now, technologies that support some of these capabilities, such as
autonomous operation, are not yet mature. We used their risk assessments
and criteria for the 15 technologies, processes, and system attributes to
determine current system integration risk as well as technology risk. We
believe technology readiness levels would have provided a more precise
gauge of technology maturity, but program officials did not provide them.6
Currently, 10 technologies, processes, and system attributes are
considered to be medium risk by the Air Force and DARPA. Medium risk
means that there is a 30 to 70 percent probability of achieving the desired
functionality for the initial operational UCAV. Moreover, 5 are currently
considered to be high risk, that is, there is less than 30 percent probability
of achieving their functionality. Table 1 provides the current risk level of
the 15 UCAV technologies, processes, and system attributes for original
UCAV objectives.




6
 A good indicator of technology risk is technology readiness level, which is used by NASA
and some Air Force programs to define the level of risk from a technology given its level
of demonstration.




Page 8                                              GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
Table 1: Current Risk Level of UCAV Technologies, Processes, and System
Attributes

 Characteristics currently                   Characteristics currently
 at medium risk                              at high risk
 •   Affordable air vehicle unit/            •    Survivable air vehicle integration
     recurring flyaway cost
 •   Weapons suspension and release          •   Advanced targeting and
                                                 engagement process

 •    Dynamic distributed                    •   Low observable maintainability
      mission/vehicle control
 •    Advanced cognitive aids                •   Adaptive, autonomous operations
      integration, mission planning
 •    Force integration, interoperability,   •   Affordable large-scale software
      and information assurance
 •    Secure, robust communication
      capability
 •    Coordinated multivehicle
      flight/motion
 •    Affordable operating and support
      cost, and integrated vehicle health
      management
 •    Mobility, rapid deployment, and
      footprint
 •    Sortie rate, turn time, and ground
      Operations
Source: DOD.



Originally, the UCAV program was tasked with providing an air vehicle
that would perform both preemptive and reactive SEAD missions
against fixed and mobile targets that are extremely demanding from
both a mission and capability perspective. The reactive mission is more
demanding than the preemptive mission because the UCAV will have less
time to find and engage mobile targets. When DOD decided to accelerate
delivery of the initial UCAVs, the program was relieved of meeting the
requirement for reactive SEAD, making for a better balance between
requirements and available resources. However, requirements were
subsequently added that increased the challenge of matching requirements
with resources. These requirements include an electronic attack mission
and increased combat range and endurance.

•    Electronic attack: DOD’s electronic attack mission is currently
     performed by the Navy’s aging EA-6B Prowler aircraft. Electronic
     attack confuses enemy radars with electronic jammers. In 2001, the
     Navy conducted an analysis of alternatives for replacing the Prowler.



Page 9                                                 GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                                Air Combat Command planners determined that the UCAV could fill
                                portions of this role quickly and added the requirement to the program.
                                As currently structured, the program does not plan to demonstrate
                                electronic attack technologies on UCAV demonstrator or prototype
                                vehicles before product development begins. According to program
                                officials, the biggest additional challenge associated with this change
                                is the integration of existing electronic attack technologies into a
                                low observable air vehicle. Program officials are also concerned that
                                downsizing and repackaging current electronic warfare technology
                                to fit into a smaller space, with sufficient cooling and power, and
                                incorporating antennas and other apertures into the low observable
                                signature of the UCAV may pose additional challenges. Program
                                officials also stated that the addition of electronic attack adds
                                uncertainty to overall program costs. It may reduce the number of
                                initial UCAVs planned for initial production because additional work
                                will be required to integrate this capability into air vehicles, given the
                                current schedule and funding.

                            •    Longer range and endurance: According to program officials, Air Force
                                leadership would like to have a larger UCAV with longer range and
                                greater endurance than that currently being designed in the X-45B to
                                perform strategic lethal strike and nonlethal intelligence, surveillance,
                                and reconnaissance missions. However, increasing UCAV’s range
                                forced the program to abandon a key design concept expected to lower
                                operating and support costs significantly over that of a manned
                                aircraft—one of the program’s original critical requirements. The initial
                                UCAV concept was a design that allowed the wings to be detached
                                from the air vehicle and stored in a crate for up to 10 years, a concept
                                which was expected to contribute to a greater than 75 percent
                                reduction in operation and support costs. When needed, the UCAV
                                could be shipped to the theater of operations, assembled, and readied
                                for use. Adding range and endurance required redesigning the air
                                vehicle with fixed or permanently attached wings, in order that the
                                inside of the wings could be used as fuel tanks. This would allow the
                                UCAV to carry more fuel and give it the ability to fly farther. Since the
                                wings would no longer be detachable, the long-term storage approach
                                had to be abandoned.


Schedule Compression        The schedule for the UCAV program has changed several times during the
Created Greater Technical   pre-acquisition phase. In 2000, the Air Force anticipated that product
and Cost Risks              development would start in 2007 and initial deliveries would begin in 2011.
                            After several schedule changes, the Air Force set product development in
                            2004 and initial delivery of aircraft in 2007. (See table 2.) The net effect of



                            Page 10                                       GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                                                    the changes was a 3-year reduction in time to mature technologies before
                                                    product development. This reduction created the potential for costly and
                                                    time-consuming rework in product development since the Air Force would
                                                    still be in the process of maturing technologies as it undertook other
                                                    product development activities. Moreover, the concurrency that comes
                                                    with the schedule changes would have left little room for error.

Table 2: Chronology of Changes to the Air Force UCAV Acquisition Program Schedule Since 2000

                                    End of technology and
 Program                            military utility        Start product
 strategy as of                     demonstrations (FY)     development (FY)    Initial deliveries (FY)      UCAV capabilities
                                                                                                             Preemptive SEAD; reactive
 2000                      2007                      2007                         2011                       SEAD
                                                                                                             Preemptive SEAD; reactive
 2001                      2006                      2005                         2010                       SEAD
 Explanation of change: To meet Air Force expectations for delivering capabilities to the war fighter earlier than 2011, the product
 launch date was moved up by 2 years to 2005 and initial delivery up 1 year to 2010.
                                                                                                             Preemptive SEAD
 2002                      2006                      2003                         2007
 Explanation of change: The schedule was changed by direction of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to further accelerate delivery
 of initial operational UCAVs to the customer. The program attempted to balance this decision by deferring the most challenging
 requirements for conducting reactive SEAD against mobile targets to a future version of UCAV.
                                                                                                             Preemptive SEAD;
                                                                                                             Electronic attack;
 Late 2002                 2006                      2004                         2007                       Extended range
 Explanation of change: The timeline was changed to address added requirements for electronic attack and extended range. While 1
 year was added to the start of product development, the date for initial deliveries did not change.
Source: GAO presentation of program data.



                                                    Under the original schedule, the UCAV program would essentially have
                                                    3 more years prior to the beginning of product development to test and
                                                    mature technologies. As a result, all 15 of the technologies, processes,
                                                    and system attributes would be at low risk by the launch of product
                                                    development indicating a match between requirements and resources.
                                                    By contrast, under the late 2002 schedule, the program would not have
                                                    enough time to mature technologies to a low risk prior to the launch of
                                                    product development in 2004. In fact, most technologies, processes,
                                                    and system attributes would still be either medium or high risk by the
                                                    time product development was launched indicating that requirements
                                                    exceeded resources.

                                                    The overlap of technology development and product development,
                                                    introduced by the acceleration of product development, also raised risks
                                                    for the UCAV program. The late 2002 schedule allowed less time for
                                                    discovering and correcting problems that may have arisen during



                                                    Page 11                                        GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
technology demonstrations prior to product development launch.
Importantly, all of the air vehicle military utility demonstrations would
have been completed after the beginning of product development. Under
the original schedule most of these demonstrations would have been
completed prior to the start of product development.

Increasing the overlap of technology development and product
development added risk to the program. Problems found during
those demonstrations might have to be fixed during product
development—problems made more likely given the lower maturity
level of the key technologies. Figure 4 shows that the concurrency
between technology development and product development increased
by approximately 18 months under the late 2002 schedule—from a
6-month approximate overlap to a 24-month approximate overlap. Also,
this acceleration increased the program risk for the start of product
development from all low to mostly medium risk for the 15 technologies,
processes, and system attributes being tracked.




Page 12                                    GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
Figure 4: Effect of Accelerated Product Development Start on Program Risk




As figure 4 indicates, the UCAV technology and product development
phases had been shortened from a plan with little concurrency between
technology and product development to a plan with significant
concurrency between the two. The push to deliver the product sooner
compressed the time in which technologies will be matured and integrated
into the UCAV weapon system. The resulting approximate 24-month
overlap between technology and product development caused by
accelerating the beginning of UCAV’s product development program had
the potential to create “late cycle churn,” or the scramble to fix significant
problems discovered late. We have found that when problems are




Page 13                                        GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                      uncovered late in product development, more time and money is required
                      to rework what is already finished.7


                      The Office of the Secretary of Defense recently restructured the UCAV
Recent DOD Decision   program to a joint program structure to meet the needs of the Navy as
to Restructure        well as the Air Force. The Office of the Secretary of Defense cancelled
                      plans to build the X-45B prototypes and now anticipates that the joint
Program Can           UCAV program will focus on a family of vehicles derived from the larger
Reduce Risks          Boeing X-45C and Northrop Grumman X-47B prototypes designs. The
                      details of the program are still being decided, but it appears likely that
                      while content will increase, the start of product development will be
                      delayed. This approach represents a substantial improvement over the
                      late 2002 plan in that it lowers risks significantly. However, keeping
                      requirements and resources in balance and funding intact until product
                      development starts will be a challenge.

                      The proposed prototypes will be larger than the X-45A or X-45B and thus
                      more capable of supporting requirements for greater combat range and
                      endurance. Also, both the proposed X-45C and X-47B prototypes will have
                      a larger wing area, allowing them to carry increased payload and internal
                      fuel. Just as the X-45B would have been more capable than the X-45A, the
                      X-45C is projected to be more capable than the X-45B as shown in Table 3
                      below. We did not obtain specific data on the X-47B prototype.

                      Table 3: Comparisons of UCAV Variants

                                             X-45A                 X-45B                  X-45C
                          Weight             12,000 lb.            21,000 lb. (approx.)   35,000 lb.
                          Length             26.3 ft.              32 ft.                 36 ft.
                          Wingspan           33.8 ft.              47 ft.                 48 ft.
                          Payload            1,500 lb.             2,000 lb.              4,500 lb.
                          Ceiling            35,000 ft.            40,000 ft.             40,000 ft.
                          Speed              0.75 Mach             0.85 Mach              0.85 Mach
                          Endurance/combat   450 NM w/30           850 NM w/30 minute     1100–1300 NM
                          radius             minutes loiter        loiter (w/added        w/30 minute loiter
                                                                   internal fuel)
                      Source: DOD.




                      7
                       U.S. General Accounting Office, Best Practices: A More Constructive Test Approach
                      Is Key to Better Weapon Systems Outcomes, GAO/NSIAD-00-199 (Washington, D.C.:
                      July 31, 2000).




                      Page 14                                           GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
Further, by adopting a design that increases internal space on the air
vehicle, DOD could more readily incorporate electronic attack equipment
and other sensors and avionics. In addition, the plan would reintroduce
competition into the UCAV program by assessing two different designs.
This competition would increase DOD’s ability to pursue the best technical
solution. On the other hand, acquisition cost for the larger air vehicles are
expected to increase as will operating and support costs due to the
abandonment of the storage-in-the-box concept. Also, meeting the
Navy’s need for carrier-based operations could place additional demands
on the air vehicle design. Figures 5 and 6 show illustrations of Boeing and
Northrop Grumman proposed joint UCAV designs.

Figure 5: Computer Rendition of the Boeing X-45C




Page 15                                       GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
Figure 6: Computer Rendition of the Northrop Grumman X-47B




In addition, more time will be added under the joint program to conduct
demonstrations by delaying the start of product development by several
years. Some of this added time—up to a year—will be needed to develop
and deliver the new prototypes. As shown in figure 7, delaying the
beginning of product development could reduce technical risks since DOD
would have more time to test prototypes.




Page 16                                      GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
Figure 7: Effect of Delayed Product Development Start on Program Risk




However, these delays may postpone initial operational capability
beyond what DOD and the Congress originally anticipated, which
was at the end of the decade. But recognizing this upfront to put the
program on a sounder footing may be preferable to proposing a
higher risk approach—like the 2002 plan—that is more susceptible
to unplanned delays.

Drawing on the experience of the UCAV to date as well as other programs,
DOD will face challenges in keeping the requirements for the new joint
design balanced with available resources. One challenge relates to
requirements. As mentioned above, more demands could be made of the
air vehicle to meet the needs of both the Air Force and the Navy. Prior to
the new joint approach, the Navy’s top mission for the UCAV has been
conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. When
considering the Air Force’s missions of reactive and preemptive SEAD and
electronic attack, it is foreseeable that the program will face pressures to


Page 17                                       GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
meet multiple missions. One approach to meeting this challenge is to delay
the start of product development until resources—such as technology
maturity—are available to meet all requirements. This would delay the
program significantly and could raise funding issues. Alternatively,
adhering to an evolutionary acquisition approach and developing the
different mission capabilities in sequence could meet the challenge, so
that the initial capability can be fielded sooner.

Another challenge relates to funding. Past and present programs have
been susceptible to such funding issues. Moreover, other programs
that dwarf the UCAV program—such as the F-22 and the Joint Strike
Fighter—will be competing for investment funds at the same time.

We have found in earlier work8 that although the Office of the Secretary
of Defense provides some funding for advanced technology development
efforts, the military services and defense agencies are ultimately
responsible for financing the acquisition and support of equipment or
items that result from the efforts. At times, however, the military services
have not wanted to fund the transition process. This action either slowed
down the acquisition process or resulted in no additional procurements.
Specifically, military services have not wanted to fund technologies
focusing on meeting joint requirements because those technologies do
not directly affect their individual missions, and there are specific projects
that they would prefer to fund. At the same time, Office of the Secretary
of Defense officials told us that they lack a mechanism for ensuring that
decisions on whether to acquire items with proven military utility are
made at the joint level, and not merely by the gaining organizations, and
that these acquisitions receive the proper priority.

The UCAV has already experienced some funding challenges. Recently,
during preparations for the fiscal year 2004 budget cycle, the Air Force
budget proposal eliminated all UCAV funding beyond that needed to finish
work on two prototypes already on contract. The Air Force based this
action on its belief that the X-45B UCAV was too small for the role the
Air Force believed was most needed.




8
 U.S. General Accounting Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Factors Affecting
Outcomes of Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations, GAO-03-52
(Washington, D.C.: Dec. 2, 2002




Page 18                                        GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                      To keep the UCAV program on track, the Office of the Secretary of
                      Defense stepped in to resolve requirements and funding challenges and
                      maintained a strong oversight over it. While the Office of the Secretary
                      of Defense increased the challenge by accelerating the delivery date for
                      the first UCAVs, it allowed the Air Force to defer the reactive SEAD
                      requirement and fended off more radical changes to the UCAV’s missions.
                      In addition, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has taken the lead in
                      brokering the agreement on the joint program proposal, adding
                      development time to the proposal and working out a joint effort that could
                      result in a single design for the Air Force and Navy. Sustaining the role
                      played by the Office of the Secretary of Defense is likely to be important to
                      meeting future challenges the UCAV may face.


                      UCAVs offer a potential for DOD to carry out dangerous missions without
Conclusion            putting lives at stake and to find cost-effective ways of replacing DOD’s
                      aging tactical aircraft fleet. However, up until recently, pre-acquisition
                      decisions had collectively increased requirements and reduced resources,
                      putting the program in a riskier position to succeed. The decision to create
                      a joint program could make for a better program if the gap between
                      resources and requirements can be closed. The joint program faces a
                      challenge in managing the demands of multimission requirements with
                      the desire to field an initial capability in a reasonable time. Accepting
                      increased requirements and accelerating fielding at the same time, as was
                      previously done, will hinder the ability of the joint UCAV program to
                      succeed. The program also faces the challenge of sustaining funding
                      support from both services at a time when it is competing against other
                      large aircraft investments. Regardless of which direction the new program
                      takes, the role played by the Office of the Secretary of Defense will
                      continue to be instrumental in helping to negotiate requirements, to assure
                      the right resources are provided, and to make further difficult tradeoff
                      decisions throughout the program.


                      We recommend the Secretary of Defense develop an acquisition approach
Recommendations for   for the joint UCAV program that enables requirements and resources to
Executive Action      be balanced at the start of product development. This approach should
                      provide mechanisms for brokering the demands of multiple missions, for
                      ensuring that the product developer maintains a voice in assessing the
                      resource implications of requirements, and for preserving the integrity of
                      evolutionary acquisition. Reinstating the use of technology readiness
                      levels may be very valuable in facilitating necessary tradeoffs.



                      Page 19                                     GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                     We also recommend that the Secretary formalize the management role
                     performed by his office and the attendant authority to perform that role;
                     ensure that the services are fully involved in the process; and work to
                     develop an efficient approach to transitioning the UCAV from DOD’s
                     technology development environment to the services’ acquisition
                     environment so the needs of the war fighter can be met more quickly.


                     DOD provided us with written comments on a draft of this report.
Agency Comments      The comments appear in appendix I. DOD provided separate
and Our Evaluation   technical comments, which we have incorporated as appropriate.

                     DOD concurred with our recommendation that the Secretary of Defense
                     develop an acquisition approach for the joint UCAV program that
                     enables requirements and resources to be balanced at the start of product
                     development. It has directed the formation of a Joint Systems Management
                     Office to define near-term requirements and to conduct robust operational
                     assessments.

                     DOD partially concurred with our recommendation that the Secretary
                     formalize a management role performed by his office and the attendant
                     authority to perform that role; ensure that the services are fully involved
                     in the process; and work to develop an efficient services’ acquisition
                     environment so the needs of the war fighter can be met more quickly.
                     DOD noted that the Secretary is organizing the management function as he
                     deems suitable. DOD did state that the department’s UAV Planning Task
                     Force would continue to provide oversight over all DOD UCAV program
                     activities. We believe this is important because it was this organization
                     that was instrumental in refocusing the DOD UCAV effort into a joint
                     program that we believe will significantly improve the probability of
                     successfully fielding UCAVs.


                     To achieve our objectives we examined Air Force UCAV program
Scope and            solicitations and agreements, the demonstration master plan, trade
Methodology          studies, technology demonstration plans and results, status of critical
                     technologies, plans to further enhance maturity of critical technologies,
                     and plans to move UCAV to the Air Force for product development. We
                     interviewed DARPA and Air Force program managers and technical
                     support officials at DARPA program offices in Arlington, Virginia, and the
                     Air Force’s Research Lab and Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright
                     Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, to document current development
                     efforts and the maturity status of critical technologies and other attributes.


                     Page 20                                      GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
To determine options that may be available to UCAV program managers in
making changes to requirements or resources, we examined the program’s
risk assessments of its 15 technologies, processes, and system attributes to
identify risk associated with beginning product development at different
points in time. We interviewed Air Force Air Combat Command officials
at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, concerning UCAV requirements, and
air staff officials in Arlington, Virginia, concerning program objectives
and resources. We also interviewed a number of officials from the
Office of Secretary of Defense having responsibility for UCAV oversight
and funding.

We conducted our work from February 2002 through May 2003 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Defense, the
Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, the Director of the Office of
Management and Budget and other congressional defense committees. We
will also provide copies to others on request. In addition, the report will be
available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

Please contact me at (202) 512-2811 if you or your staff has any questions
concerning this report. Key contributors to this report were Mike Sullivan,
Jerry Clark, Matt Lea, Kris Keener, Travis Masters, Cristina Chaplain, Lily
Chin, Bob Swierczek, and Maria-Alaina Rambus.




Paul Francis
Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management




Page 21                                      GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                   Appendix I: Comments from the Department
Appendix I: Comments from the Department
                   of Defense



of Defense




         Page 22                                      GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
                     Appendix I: Comments from the Department
                     of Defense




(120125)
           Page 23                                      GAO-03-598 UCAV Program's Success
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