Improving the Weapon Systems Acquisition Process

Gao ID: MASAD-81-29 May 15, 1981

A compilation of concerns regarding the weapon systems acquisition process is given. These represent GAO opinions based on the many reviews GAO has made of acquisition programs over the past several years.

There have been occasional instances of the military improving its weapons systems through modification programs. In establishing the needs for a new system, the services frequently set their performance requirements higher than necessary, guaranteeing that existing systems cannot compete with new concepts. More critical analysis of proposed requirements before they are approved may help keep performance at an affordable and achievable range and give existing systems a better chance to compete. A preplanned production improvement program could help lower weapon system costs. There is little evidence that the advanced performance characteristics designed into many systems will provide easier operational use and maintainability. Associated operating and support costs will grow as the new systems are fielded. High value spare parts inventories and higher skill levels to maintain the equipment are involved. These factors can lead to a considerable demand for defense spending. Stretchouts, and the resulting higher program and unit costs, can be avoided by losing some low priority programs. The Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council (DSARC) should continue to evaluate weapon system acquisitions at major decision points and pass on the merit of permitting systems to proceed into the next acquisition phase. Scheduling DSARC meetings can be improved by having them coincide with the time periods in which better test results and other data become available. There is a need for integrating the DSARC and planning, programming, and budgeting systems.

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