United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to Congressional Requesters December 1997 NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE Schedule and Technical Risks Represent Significant Development Challenges GAO/NSIAD-98-28 United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 National Security and International Affairs Division B-275013 December 12, 1997 The Honorable Carl Levin Ranking Minority Member Committee on Armed Services United States Senate The Honorable Jeff Bingaman Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Committee on Armed Services United States Senate In response to your request, we are providing an initial assessment of the technical and schedule risks associated with the National Missile Defense (NMD) program. The Department of Defense (DOD) has indicated that it intends to ask for $2.3 billion more for this program but has not released final plans showing how it intends to use the additional funds. The information provided in this letter is necessarily limited to the NMD acquisition strategy formally defined and approved by DOD as of September 19, 1997. Although changes are expected when final plans are released, the information in this letter should be a useful point of reference from which to analyze those new plans. We will continue to obtain information on these risks and other issues you asked us to examine. While the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) had been Background developing and maturing technologies for use in an NMD system for a number of years, in October 1996 it began developing a specific NMD system to provide protection against limited ballistic missile attacks targeted at the United States. Its mission is to detect, identify, engage, intercept, and destroy threatening ballistic missiles prior to their impact on any of the 50 states. The program focuses on the development of a system that could support a deployment readiness review in fiscal year 2000. The review would determine whether the initial system has been adequately demonstrated and if the existing threat justifies deployment of an initial capability by fiscal year 2003. This plan is commonly referred to as the “3+3” program. Figure 1 shows the program schedule, assuming a decision in fiscal year 2000 to deploy the system. Page 1 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 Figure 1: NMD Program Schedule Task name 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 Start date for the development of the 3+3 Program Prime Contract Award Integrated System Test Deployment Readiness Review (system deployment decision) Initial Operational Capability While DOD is still determining the specific design of the initial NMD system, its features will include (1) space-based and ground-based sensors to provide early warning of attacking missiles; (2) ground-based radars to identify and track the threatening warheads; (3) ground-based interceptors to collide with and destroy incoming warheads; and (4) a battle management, command, control, and communications system. The NMD system architecture would evolve over time through incorporation of advanced element technologies to defend against more sophisticated threats. For example, the Space and Missile Tracking System, a space-based sensor constellation of infrared tracking and discrimination satellites providing early-trajectory capabilities, will be added to the system at a later time. Page 2 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 DOD faces significant challenges in the NMD program because of high Results in Brief schedule and technical risks. Schedule risk is high because the schedule requires a large number of activities to be completed in a relatively short amount of time. The sequential nature of key development activities—such as not being able to proceed in earnest until a prime NMD contractor is selected in the spring of 1998—magnifies time pressures. Furthermore, developing and deploying an NMD system in the 6 years allotted under the 3+3 program will be a significant challenge for DOD given its past history with other weapon systems. For example, NMD’s acquisition schedule is about one-half as long as that of the only other U.S.-based ballistic missile defense system. DOD acknowledges the high schedule risk. Technical risks are high because the compressed development schedule only allows limited testing. The NMD acquisition strategy calls for conducting (1) one system test prior to the initial system deployment decision—a test that would not include all system elements or involve stressing conditions such as threats employing sophisticated countermeasures or multiple warheads—and (2) one test of the integrated ground-based interceptor before production of the interceptor’s booster element must begin. If subsequent tests reveal problems, costly redesign or modification of already produced hardware may be required. Under the formally defined acquisition strategy, a large number of Compressed NMD activities need to be completed in a relatively short time frame, and recent Schedule Presents slips in program events have increased the program’s schedule risk. DOD Challenges and BMDO officials have acknowledged the high schedule risk. According to testimony by the former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, the program’s schedule will remain high risk despite planned funding increases recommended by the recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). DOD does not yet have a firm plan for how the additional funds will be used. Developing the NMD system will present DOD with significant challenges. The NMD schedule is shorter than most other major system acquisition programs. Many Activities Must Be Even though the NMD development program officially began in Accomplished in Short October 1996, many development activities cannot proceed in earnest until BMDO selects a firm to serve as the prime contractor for the system. This Time Frame underlines the sequential nature of many planned development activities. BMDO does not expect to complete this selection process until the spring of 1998. Then, the final design process cannot begin until the selected prime Page 3 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 contractor has time to examine and analyze the requirements and architectures. For example, one of the prime contractor’s responsibilities will be to develop and procure one or more radars for the system. There are two radar candidates, and until the prime contractor has had time to examine them, analyze their performance in selected settings and architectures, and make a selection of one or more of the candidates, the radar procurement process cannot begin. Similarly, the acquisition of the booster for the ground-based interceptor cannot begin until the prime contractor has assessed the alternatives, which include developing a new booster, using an existing booster, or modifying an existing design to meet the NMD requirements. Furthermore, a number of activities are dependent on the final system design. For example, after the design is determined, sites will have to be selected. DOD will have to obtain land, build or modify facilities, and conduct environmental impact studies. According to a preliminary analysis by the NMD system engineering contractor,1 the ability to (1) construct and install radars and interceptor communication sites in the 3-year deployment window; (2) obtain easements, land, and rights-of-way for sites; and (3) conduct environmental impact studies by 2003 will present a significant challenge. Recent Delays Have Recent delays have increased schedule risk. Since the 3+3 program was Increased Schedule Risk approved, BMDO has experienced a 7-month delay in establishing the joint program office to manage the acquisition and a 6-month delay in awarding concept definition contracts leading to the selection of a prime contractor. Also, a sensor flight-test failure resulted in a 6-month testing delay.2 According to the former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, these slips have increased the schedule risk. Schedule Risk Will Remain DOD officials have acknowledged the high risk involved in the schedule. In High Despite Funding order to help maintain the fiscal year 2003 deployment option, the Increases Department’s recent QDR recommended significant increases in program funding through fiscal year 2000. The QDR was commissioned to provide a comprehensive examination of the defense strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure, budget plan, and other elements of 1 The system engineering contractor is responsible for helping the NMD project office generate, verify, and validate requirements while the prime contractor will be responsible for designing, developing, integrating, and testing the NMD system. 2 This test was rescheduled and flown in June 1997, and according to BMDO, the test was successful. Page 4 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 the defense program and policies. It considered three alternatives for dealing with the future of the NMD program. Two of the alternatives would have slipped the earliest possible schedule for system deployment to a date later than fiscal year 2003. The alternative selected in the QDR is predicated on adding an estimated $2.3 billion to the program in fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2003, while retaining the potential deployment of the system in fiscal year 2003. However, according to the former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, the additional funding will not reduce the high schedule risk inherent in the program. DOD does not yet have a firm plan for how the additional funds will be used. Acquisition Schedule Is The acquisition schedule is about one-half as long as the Safeguard’s—the Shorter Than Most Other only other U.S.-based ballistic missile defense system.3 The NMD schedule Major Systems is also shorter than schedules projected for acquisition of most other U.S. missile defense programs. For example, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense program is currently projected to require 13 years to reach its first unit-equipped milestone. The Patriot PAC-3 system is projected to take 5 years from the beginning of engineering and manufacturing development to reach the first unit-equipped date, even though it is only a modification to an existing air defense system. The NMD acquisition schedule is also shorter than the average time projected to acquire and field 59 other major weapon systems that we examined.4 These are the programs for which DOD had Selected Acquisition Reports in December 1996. These systems are projected to take an average of just under 10 years from the beginning of their development until they reach an initial operating capability date. The estimated fielding times for the 59 programs ranged from 5 years to 19 years. (See app. I.) 3 Development of Safeguard system components began in 1963 and the system’s single site at Grand Forks, North Dakota, achieved full operational capability in 1975. The program was terminated in 1976. 4 We reviewed all of the December 31, 1996, Selected Acquisition Reports for systems that contained both (1) an acquisition milestone I date (approval to begin developing a new system) or a milestone II date (approval to begin engineering and manufacturing development) and (2) an initial operating capability date. We measured the time estimated from either milestones I or II to the initial operating capability date for the 59 programs that met that criteria. The mean time between these milestones was 9.9 years. The median was 9.1 years. Page 5 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 Because of the compressed development schedule, only a limited amount Limited Testing of flight test data will be available for the system deployment decision in Planned Before fiscal year 2000. By that time, BMDO will have conducted only one Possible Deployment system-level flight test, and that test may not include all system elements or involve stressing conditions such as targets that employ sophisticated Decision in Fiscal countermeasures or multiple warheads. As a result, not all technical Year 2000 issues, such as discrimination,5 will be resolved by the time of the deployment review. Also, the current schedule will permit only a single test of the integrated ground-based interceptor before production of the interceptor’s booster element6 must begin. If subsequent tests reveal problems, costly redesign or modification of already produced hardware may be required. Few Flight Tests Prior to The current development schedule provides for only three flight intercept Deployment Decision tests prior to the fiscal year 2000 deployment decision. Only one of these will be an integrated system test, and that test will not be comprehensive because it will not include all system elements. If the test fails, the deployment review would be left with only ground test data and partial-system flight data when considering the deployment option. This presents a high performance and schedule risk to the program. According to BMDO, the lack of back-up test hardware is a primary contributor to program risk. For example, this lack of a back-up target caused the 6-month delay in rescheduling the sensor flight test after the January 1997 test failure. Additionally, the single integrated system test planned prior to the fiscal year 2000 deployment review will not assess the NMD system’s capabilities against stressing threats such as those that use sophisticated countermeasures or multiple warheads. The test is to be conducted against a single target with only simple countermeasures such as decoys. No test against multiple warheads is planned. The integrated system test, as currently planned, will not include all elements of the planned system. For example, the current plan is to use a payload launch vehicle rather than the actual ground-based interceptor booster because, according to NMD program officials, it will probably not 5 Discrimination is the system’s ability to distinguish between warheads and other, nonthreatening objects such as decoys and debris that may be present and detected by radars and other sensors. 6 The ground-based interceptor will consist of a booster and an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle. The booster is to propel the kill vehicle to a point in space near the attacking warhead. The kill vehicle is to locate, identify, and collide with the attacking warhead. Page 6 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 be available in time for the test. A lack of flight test data on the booster before the deployment review could impact the credibility of the interceptor’s performance evaluation as well as the overall system assessment. According to the NMD program’s system engineering contractor, there is a high risk that the evaluation of the NMD capability will be incomplete or not representative of the true system capability. DOD acknowledged the testing limitations and they were highlighted in the program’s own risk assessment. Some Technical Issues Will There are a number of technical concerns that will not be resolved by the Not Be Resolved in Tests time of the potential fiscal year 2000 deployment decision. For example, DOD still has not shown that the type of interceptors planned for the system—hit-to-kill interceptors—can provide a reliable defense under stressing conditions. To date, there have been very few tests of hit-to-kill interceptors and even fewer successful intercepts. Of the 20 intercept attempts since the early 1980s, only 6, or about 30 percent, have been successful. While these intercepts provide proof of the principle of hit-to-kill intercept, they do not demonstrate that the concept can be employed reliably or under stressing conditions. Also, according to the system engineering contractor, the test program will not test system-level discrimination capabilities sufficiently to ensure that requirements can be met. The accurate discrimination of incoming threat objects from nonthreatening objects such as decoys and debris that may be present is vital to the system’s ability to successfully defend the United States from an attack. Without discrimination, too many interceptors may be wasted on nonthreatening objects and attacking warheads could escape identification. To perform the discrimination task, data from a number of different types of sensors—both internal and external to the system—will have to be obtained, correlated, associated, or fused by the battle management, command, control, and communications system. According to the system engineering contractor, NMD system discrimination requirements will exceed previous experience and a number of concerns exist. These include concerns about the development and validation of algorithms for (1) optical and infrared sensor discrimination, (2) fusing data from sensors of different technologies, and (3) resolving any differences or ambiguities between radar and optical data. Limited Number of The tentative schedule for the ground-based interceptor shows that Interceptor Tests full-scale production would need to start by January 2000 to achieve an Represents Risk initial operating capability by 2003. To meet this schedule, DOD would have Page 7 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 to award the contract for interceptor production after only one flight test of the combined booster and its designated kill vehicle. If subsequent tests reveal problems, the design may have to be revised and costly, time-consuming changes made. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD concurred that the NMD Agency Comments program faces significant challenges because of high schedule and technical risk. It also stated that the report is generally accurate, but provided some clarifying comments on the program’s status, comparison of certain flight tests, and impact of testing and test hardware on risk. DOD’s comments and our evaluation are presented in appendix II. DOD also provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. To assess the NMD program’s schedule and technical risks, we reviewed Scope and available program plans, test plans, milestone schedules, requirements Methodology documents, and management reports. To determine the level of risk and major factors contributing to it, we analyzed the program’s status, strategy for accomplishing the remaining development work and meeting fielding requirements, and approaches to demonstrating the system’s capabilities and military suitability. We also discussed schedule and technical risks and plans for mitigating them with officials at the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, Washington, D.C.; the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, Alexandria, Virginia; and the Army NMD Project Office, Huntsville, Alabama. To provide a basis for comparison with the NMD program schedule, we obtained schedule data for 59 other major acquisition programs from DOD’s Selected Acquisition Reports. We conducted our work from September 1996 through September 1997 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earliler, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from its issue date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to other interested congressional committees, the Secretary of Defense, and the Directors of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the Office of Management and Budget. Copies will also be made available to others upon request. Page 8 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks B-275013 If you or your staff have questions concerning this report, please contact me at (202) 512-4841. The major contributors to this report were Lee Edwards, Bobby Hall, and Tom Hopp. Allen Li Associate Director Defense Acquisitions Issues Page 9 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Appendix I Time Required to Develop and Field Major Systems Initial operational Elapsed time System Begin development capability (years) Program 1a b a 7 Joint Direct Attack Munition for F/A-18 Oct. 1993 Sept. 1999 6 Brilliant Anti-Tank Feb. 1985 Nov. 1999 15 Army Tactical Missile System Block II May 1995b Mar. 2004 9 a c a Program 3 8 Longbow Apache-Airframe Modifications Aug. 1985 Oct. 1998 13 Sense and Destroy Armor Mar. 1988b July 1999 11 Javelin May 1986 Oct. 1996 10 Comanche Program June 1988 July 2006 18 a c a Program 4 8 Program 5a b a 7 F-22 Oct. 1986 Nov. 2004 18 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Nov. 1978 Sept. 1991 13 b Navy EHF SATCOM Program Jan. 1982 Apr. 1994 12 DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyer June 1981 Feb. 1993 12 New SSN/New Attack Submarine Aug. 1994 Oct. 2005 11 High Speed Nuclear Attack Submarine Dec. 1983 May 1997 13 Trident II Missile Oct. 1977 Mar. 1990 12 Airborne Warning and Control System Radar System Improvement Dec. 1988b Dec. 1999 11 b Joint Stars Sept. 1985 Sept. 1997 12 Minuteman III Guidance Replacement Program Aug. 1993 Jan. 2000 6 b Minuteman III Propulsion Replacement Program June 1994 Jan. 2002 8 Program 7 a b a 11 Abrams Tank Upgrade Feb. 1985b Feb. 1993 8 Army Tactical Missile System-Antipersonnel/Antimateriel Warhead Feb. 1986b Aug. 1990 5 Longbow Hellfire Aug. 1985 July 1998 13 Cooperative Engagement Capability May 1995b July 2000 5 b Hawkeye (mission computer upgrade only) Sept. 1994 June 1999 5 LHD1 Amphibious Assault Ship Oct. 1981 Nov. 1990 9 a c a Program 8 11 MIDS-LVT Dec. 1993b Apr. 2000 6 b Multi-Mission Helicopter Upgrade (SH-60R) July 1993 Oct. 2002 9 Tomahawk Improvement Program (RGM-109) Sept. 1994b Aug. 2000 6 b Marine Corps H-1 Upgrade Program Oct. 1996 June 2005 9 Jet Flight Training System Sept. 1984 Apr. 1993 9 Strategic Sealift Aug. 1992 Jan. 1998 5 Coastal Minehunter Ship (MHC-51) June 1986 Sept. 1996 10 (continued) Page 10 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Appendix I Time Required to Develop and Field Major Systems Initial operational Elapsed time System Begin development capability (years) F/A-18E/F Naval Strike Fighter (Hornet) May 1992b Sept. 2000 8 Joint Services Advanced Vertical Lift Aircraft Dec. 1982 July 2001 19 AOE6 Class Fast Combat Support Ship July 1982 June 1995 13 Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle Mar. 1995 June 2006 11 B-1B Mission Upgrade Program-Computer Apr. 1993 Dec. 2001 9 Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System May 1984 Jan. 1997 13 Crusader Field Artillery System Nov. 1994 June 2006 12 Combat Service Support System Version 3 Dec. 1990 Oct. 1997 7 b Forward Area Air Defense Command, Control, and Intelligence July 1986 Sept. 1994 8 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles May 1987 Jan. 1996 9 Airborne Laser Nov. 1996 Sept. 2006 10 Milstar Satellite June 1983 June 1997 14 Joint Service Imagery Processing System July 1986 Dec. 1994 8 Bradley Fighting Vehicle Upgrade Jan. 1994 Aug. 2000 7 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System Feb. 1976 Dec. 1990 15 C-17 Globemaster III Feb. 1985b Jan. 1995 10 Joint Primary Aircraft Training System Jan. 1993 Aug. 2001 9 Program 9a b a 8 a b a Program 10 11 All Source Analysis System Sept. 1993b Dec. 1999 6 B-1 Conventional Mission Upgrade Program—Joint Direct Attack Munition Apr. 1993 Dec. 1998 6 National Airspace System—Air Traffic Control July 1992 Apr. 2000 8 Average 9.9 a Initial operational capability dates for these systems are classified. To avoid classification, system name and milestone dates are not shown. b Date reflects beginning of milestone II (approval to enter engineering and manufacturing development) because these systems began in that phase. c Date reflects beginning of milestone I (approval to begin development of a new program) because these systems began in that phase. Source: DOD Selected Acquisition Reports, December 31, 1996. Page 11 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Appendix II Comments From the Department of Defense Note: GAO comments supplementing those in the report text appear at the end of this appendix. Page 12 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Appendix II Comments From the Department of Defense See comment 1. See comment 2. See comment 3. Page 13 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Appendix II Comments From the Department of Defense See comment 4. Page 14 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Appendix II Comments From the Department of Defense The following are GAO’s comments on DOD’s letter dated November 14, 1997. 1. As requested, we focused on the program’s schedule and technical risk. GAO Comments However, we revised the text to show that a lengthy period of technology development preceded the specific program’s initiation in October 1996 and that successful testing has occurred. Even though DOD has built structural facilities for the prototype radar and is on track to meet established ground and flight tests, the program’s schedule and technical risks remain high, as DOD itself acknowledges. 2. We do not state that the risk from limited flight testing was not known when the program was initiated or that officials did not know at that time that the flight tests would be constrained by range safety and other considerations. Even though known, the test limitations significantly increase the level of technical risk. We clarified the text to show that DOD acknowledges these limitations and that they were highlighted in the program’s own risk assessment. 3. We agree that the testing programs are not directly comparable and revised the text to delete the comparison. The point we were making is that because of the constrained schedule, the amount of flight testing is less than would normally be expected. This point remains valid. 4. We added information to show that the lack of back-up hardware contributes to program risk and that the lack of a back-up target caused the 6-month delay in rescheduling the sensor flight test. (707208) Page 15 GAO/NSIAD-98-28 National Missile Defense Risks Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also. 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National Missile Defense: Schedule and Technical Risks Represent Significant Development Challenges
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-12-12.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)