Cancellation of the Army's Autonomous Navigation System

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-08-02.

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

United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548

           August 2, 2012

           The Honorable Roscoe G. Bartlett
           The Honorable Silvestre Reyes
           Ranking Member
           Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces
           Committee on Armed Services
           House of Representatives

           Subject: Cancellation of the Army’s Autonomous Navigation System

           The Army intended the Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) to enable ground
           robotic vehicles to partially drive and navigate themselves and to do so in remote
           areas with difficult terrain, by integrating sensors, processors, and software. Initially,
           the Army was developing the system as part of manned and unmanned ground
           vehicles (UGV) that were part of the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program.
           But after the cancellation of various FCS vehicles beginning in 2009, the Army
           planned to couple ANS with the yet-to-be developed Multi-Mission Unmanned
           Ground Vehicle (MM-UGV), which among many uses was intended to counter
           roadside bombs – or improvised explosive devices (IED) – in Iraq and Afghanistan.
           General Dynamics Robotic Systems (GDRS) was the contractor for ANS. 1

           The Army made considerable effort to develop and validate a requirement for the
           MM-UGV and ANS; however, both were cancelled in 2011. With the cancellation of
           these efforts, you expressed interest in the impact on Army future autonomous
           unmanned ground capabilities. In response, we examined:

               •   To what extent did the Army demonstrate ANS capabilities prior to
               •   What methods did the Army use to compare ANS to commercially available
                   and other alternatives, particularly in the area of field demonstrations?

            Boeing was the prime contractor for the FCS program, with subcontractor GDRS responsible for the
           ANS portion of the program.

                                                               GAO-12-851R Autonomous Navigation System
   •     To what extent does a validated requirement exist for this capability, and how
         does it fit in with other UGV initiatives?

To conduct our work, we obtained and analyzed Army and contractor documents
and test reports to determine ANS progress prior to cancellation, methodology used
in comparing ANS to other alternatives, and validated need for vehicles and
autonomous capability. We also interviewed officials from a variety of Army and
Department of Defense (DOD) offices as well as GDRS.

We conducted this performance audit from February to August 2012 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require
that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to
provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. A more detailed
description of our scope and methodology is presented in the enclosure.

Results in Brief

Almost all ANS hardware and most software development were completed prior to
its cancellation, according to the Army and GDRS. The software for the most
advanced capabilities was not completed, which potentially presented the greatest
complexities. GDRS had demonstrated many of ANS’s capabilities to some extent,
including its capability to avoid obstacles and follow a leading vehicle through
varying terrain. ANS had not yet progressed to the independent testing phase,
however. In cancelling ANS and MM-UGV, the Army estimated that approximately
$2.5 billion in planned funding for fiscal years 2013 to 2017 could be made available
for other Army efforts. According to Army officials, the government owns the work
completed on ANS to date.

To compare ANS to other alternatives, the Army engaged a team (the Red Team) to
perform a functional comparison of the demonstrated capabilities of ANS and six
other military and commercial systems. The Red Team, comprised of robotics
experts with prior knowledge of the systems, found that ANS did not provide a
unique capability relative to the other systems evaluated with respect to basic
navigation functionality. However, the Red Team noted that ANS was designed for
and had demonstrated capabilities for operating in an off-road environment, unlike
some of the other systems. The Red Team, which had previously witnessed
demonstrations of some of the systems, did not conduct field evaluations for the
study due to time constraints, nor did the team rely on testing data and reports on
the different systems.

DOD has not validated a requirement for a UGV with an ANS-like capability using
the traditional requirement processes, despite attempts to do so. On the other hand,

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urgent needs statements from battlefield commanders indicate some desire for
unmanned ground capabilities—especially in countering IEDs. Several efforts have
been underway to address these urgent needs, but nothing has yet resulted in a full
scale development program.


Initially, the Army intended for ANS to serve as the autonomous navigation system
for as many as 13 manned and unmanned vehicle types as part of the FCS. Since it
started in 2003, FCS had been at the center of the Army’s efforts to modernize into a
lighter, more agile, and more capable combat force. The FCS concept involved
replacing existing combat systems with a family of manned and unmanned vehicles
and systems linked by an advanced information network. In support of FCS, the
Army planned for ANS to provide UGVs with various capabilities, including remote
operation, the ability to follow roads, and the ability to follow other vehicles or a
walking soldier. Over time, development on FCS vehicles was deferred or cancelled,
and the requirements documents supporting the FCS program were discontinued
due to shifting priorities in the Army.

Figure 1 shows the timeline of the ANS program as well as the various vehicle
options that were considered through the cancellation of the ANS in 2011.

Figure 1: Timeline of ANS from 2003 to 2011

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Despite cancellation of the FCS vehicles, ANS continued development as a potential
add-on package for future vehicles including the MM-UGV. The goal of the MM-UGV
was to develop an UGV platform that could accept multiple mission packages,
including sensors, weapons, counter-IED, and other mission packages. Several
analyses of ANS have been conducted over the years to study its utility, including
the Red Team analysis in 2011. 2

The Army assembled the Red Team in 2011 to provide a top-level, independent look
at ANS and provide a recommendation to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army on
whether continued investment was warranted. The Red Team report addressed
topics such as whether there were existing requirements for an autonomous
navigation capability; if ANS was unique compared to demonstrated basic
autonomous navigation capabilities from the military and commercial sectors; and
whether the unique qualities of ANS might make it worthy of continued development
under the current contract.

Army Made Progress with ANS, but Development Was Incomplete When

The Army made considerable progress developing ANS by the time of its
cancellation, including completing its Critical Design Review and releasing its
technical drawings. The Army and GDRS generally agree that the development of
about 90 percent of ANS hardware was complete, as was about 75 percent of the
ANS software. GDRS was developing ANS in three planned software phases with
each phase building upon the previous phase to increase autonomous capability. Of
the three phases, the first was complete, the second mostly completed, and some
work had started on the third. However, some of the remaining software work was
for the most advanced capabilities—operating at higher speeds and safely following
a soldier—which may have been costly and time consuming to complete because of
the increasing complexity.

The Army and GDRS had completed initial demonstrations of ANS hardware and
software on nine different vehicles. 3 For example, GDRS had conducted multiple
demonstrations of ANS’s capability to avoid obstacles and follow a vehicle leader or
a route through varying terrain at moderate but not the higher, required speeds. To
fully demonstrate ANS capabilities, however, would have required its participation in
independent operational testing with a fully developed software suite. Operational
testing provides independent assessment of a system’s capabilities outside of a
contractor’s or Army’s controlled environment by an objective third party. The Army
cancelled ANS before these tests could be conducted, since such testing occurs
closer to the beginning of production, which ANS had not yet reached.

    Autonomous Navigation System Assessment.
  All of the ANS demonstrations were on non-FCS vehicles because FCS vehicles were unavailable
to GDRS.

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Although the Army did not have a separate cost estimate to complete ANS
development at the time of cancellation, estimates anticipated that an additional $50
million would be spent for planned development work in fiscal year 2012. Separately,
GDRS proposed a reduced scope of work for $35 million in fiscal year 2012 to
complete development work that had already been started. The Army did not accept
this proposal. According to the Army, cancellation of MM-UGV (and ANS) was
expected to make about $2.5 billion in funds available for fiscal years 2013 to 2017
for reinvestment by the Army. In addition, the Army has not yet determined the costs
of terminating ANS.

According to Army officials, the Army owns the ANS hardware completed prior to its
cancellation. In addition, according to the Army, they have government purpose
rights to certain software and hardware technical data, which allows the government
to use it for its own purposes.

Functional Comparison Found ANS Not Unique in Basic Autonomous
Navigation Compared to Other Alternatives

For the most part, ANS did not provide unique capabilities relative to six other
systems for completing basic semi-autonomous navigation tasks, according to the
Army’s Red Team study done over a 10-day period in 2011. ANS’s ability to operate
in structured and predictable environments was similar to that of the compared
systems. That, coupled with a lack of existing Army requirements, led to the Red
Team to conclude that a justification did not exist for continued investment in ANS.

The other six military and commercial systems are described in table 1.

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Table 1: ANS-like Systems Evaluated by Army Red Team

System Name                       Sponsor                           ANS-Like Capabilities

                                                                    Remote Operation, Vehicle
Cargo-UGV                         Marine Warfighting Lab            Leader/Follower, Road

Ground Unmanned                                                     Remote Operation, Soldier
                                  Marine Warfighting Lab
Support Surrogate                                                   Leader/Follower

                                  Army Tank and
                                                                    Remote Operation, Vehicle
Convoy Active Safety              Automotive Research,
                                                                    Leader/Follower, Road
Technologies                      Development, and
                                  Engineering Command

Mobile Autonomous                                                   Remote Operation, Solider and
                                  Southwest Research
Robotics Technology                                                 Vehicle Leader/Follower, Road
Initiative                                                          Following

                                                                    Vehicle Leader/Follower, Road
Commercial Auto/Truck             Various

Google Driverless
                                  Google                            Road Following
Source: GAO presentation of data from Red Team Study report.

The study compared ANS functionality to these systems in terms of three critical
autonomy areas: External Sensing, Intelligence and Behaviors, and Modes of
Operations and Terrains. In addition, the study included Technical Maturity and
Testing and System Cost metrics. The Red Team reviewed and evaluated the
systems based on demonstrated capabilities to date, not planned or intended
capabilities. Team members were subject matter experts in robotics, had knowledge
of the systems being compared, and had previously witnessed numerous
evaluations of ANS and the comparative systems. The Red Team did not conduct
field evaluations of the systems for the study due to time constraints, nor did they
draw upon testing data and reports.

While comparative systems provided similar basic autonomous navigation
capabilities, the Red Team also found that ANS had other capabilities. For example,
ANS provided a fuller range of capabilities and had undergone more demonstrations
and military hardening, such as the ability to operate in a combat environment and
protect against electromagnetic interference, which was the most significant overall
cost driver. In addition, ANS had been designed and had demonstrated capability for
operating in an off-road environment, unlike some of the other efforts. The

Page 6                                                  GAO-12-851R Autonomous Navigation System
commercial systems evaluated had been operated almost exclusively on paved
roads and in structured environments.

The study also found that ANS was not out of line with the cost range of the other
military and commercial systems evaluated. ANS’s anticipated production cost of
about $250,000 per system was somewhat less than the Marine Warfighting Lab’s
Cargo-UGV and Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate, both of which are estimated
to cost over $300,000 per system. However, Google’s Driverless Vehicle and the
Southwest Research Institute’s Mobile Autonomous Robotics Technology Initiative,
which are expected to cost $150,000 each, would be less expensive than the
estimate for ANS. Red Team members noted, however, that five of the systems that
were evaluated against ANS used cost estimates based on prototypes, while only
the commercial automotive systems and ANS had production cost estimates.

Part of the ANS’s higher cost was due to the pursuit of the original FCS
requirements—to fit ANS into the broader FCS network. Some of the FCS
requirements were as follows:
   •     Modified sensors to avoid enemy detection;
   •     More sensors to be able to drive backwards at speeds equal to driving
   •     Global Positioning System designed to work in combat environments; and
   •     Hardened components to protect the system in a combat environment against
         shock and electromagnetic interference.

GDRS was directed to continue to develop ANS to these original requirements even
after FCS was cancelled. Some of these requirements went well beyond the
capabilities of comparative systems. However, these requirements and capabilities
fell outside of the consideration range of the five metrics that were used to evaluate
the systems in the Red Team report.

DOD Did Not Have Validated Requirements for ANS; Other Initiatives in Earlier

Despite several attempts to do so, DOD does not have a validated requirement for a
UGV with an ANS-like capability. When development efforts become formal
acquisition programs, they are generally based on requirements validated by the
Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) or another delegated validation
authority. Since the cancellation of FCS, no validated requirements exist for an
autonomous UGV. The cancellation of MM-UGV was due, at least in part, to the
inability to validate its requirements because of changing user priorities.

Page 7                                        GAO-12-851R Autonomous Navigation System
The Army is currently leading an effort to complete an Unmanned Initial Capabilities
Document for Air, Land, and Sea, which is a prerequisite to obtaining JROC-
validated requirements. However, this effort has been underway since November
2009 and the Army is still in the process of resolving comments and the document is
still being revised. According to Army officials, it is uncertain when it will be finished.
Yet, defining common unmanned capabilities for all of the services is essential. In a
March 2010 testimony, we noted that DOD recognizes that to more effectively
leverage its acquisition resources, it must achieve greater commonality and
efficiency among the military services’ various unmanned system acquisition
programs. 4 We also noted that DOD stated in its Unmanned System Roadmap there
is the potential for an unprecedented level of collaboration to meet capability needs
and reduce acquisition costs by requiring greater commonality among the military
services’ unmanned systems.

An alternative approach to validating requirements through the JROC is the process
set up by DOD to rapidly acquire solutions for urgent operational needs. 5 The
objective of this process is to validate an urgent need, identify a source of funding,
and promptly field a ready solution. Compared with traditional acquisitions, which
can take at least several years, rapid acquisitions can be completed within 24
months. Both the Army and DOD, which was supported by the Joint Improvised
Explosive Device Defeat Organization, have identified urgent operational needs for a
UGV with the capability to counter IEDs. However, when these initiatives were
prioritized relative to other needs, it was determined that they were not high enough
on the priority list to warrant pursuing due, in part, to the maturity of the counter-IED

Despite the cancellation of ANS and the lack of a validated requirement, there are
several UGV initiatives in the research stage. These include the Squad Mission
Support System which recently completed testing in Afghanistan; the Safe
Operations of Unmanned Systems for Reconnaissance in Complex Environments
which is in testing; and the Supervised Autonomy to Neutralize and Detect IEDs
which will be safety tested and then cancelled. We found that all were in the
preliminary stages of development but most were not close to achieving the
developmental progress of ANS.

 GAO, Defense Acquisitions: DOD Could Achieve Greater Commonality and Efficiencies Among its
Unmanned Aircraft Systems, GAO-10-508T (Washington, D.C.: March 23, 2010)
 GAO, Urgent Warfighter Needs: Opportunities Exist to Expedite Development and Fielding of Joint
Capabilities, GAO-12-385 (Washington, D.C.: April 24, 2012).

Page 8                                              GAO-12-851R Autonomous Navigation System
Agency Comments

We provided a draft of this report to DOD for review. DOD provided technical
comments that were incorporated, as appropriate.
                                     - - - - -
We are sending copies of this report to appropriate congressional committees and
the Secretaries of Defense and the Army. In addition, the report will be available at
no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staff has any
questions concerning this report, please contact me at (202) 512-4841 or
martinb@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and
Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this
report were Bill Graveline, Assistant Director; James Kim; Ioan Ifrim; Bob Swierczek;
Alyssa Weir; and Roxanna Sun.

Belva Martin, Director
Acquisition and Sourcing Management


Page 9                                       GAO-12-851R Autonomous Navigation System

Scope and Methodology
To conduct our work, we obtained and analyzed Army and contractor documents,
and test reports to determine ANS progress prior to cancellation, methodology used
in comparing ANS to other alternatives, and validated need for vehicles and
autonomous capability.
We interviewed officials from the following offices.
   •   U.S. Army: Tank Automotive and Armaments Command—Tank Automotive
       Research, Development and Engineering Center; Program Executive Office—
       Ground Combat Systems; Training and Doctrine Command—Army
       Capabilities Integration Center; Army G-3/5/7—Operations, Plans and
       Training; Rapid Equipping Force; Office of the Assistant Secretary of the
       Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology; and the Army Audit Agency.
   •   Robotic Systems Joint Program Office; Office of the Undersecretary of
       Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Joint Ground Robotics
       Enterprise; Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory; and the Joint Improvised
       Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
We also interviewed Red Team members at the following offices: U.S. Army Tank
Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center—Ground Vehicle
Robotics; Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and
Technology—Research and Technology; and the Office of the Undersecretary of
Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics / Office of the Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Strategic and Tactical Systems, Land Warfare and
Munitions—Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise.
We also visited and interviewed officials at General Dynamics Robotic Systems.
We conducted this performance audit from February 2012 to August 2012, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those
standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate
evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on
our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.


Page 10                                        GAO-12-851R Autonomous Navigation System
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