Missile System Review

Gao ID: 115333 May 19, 1981

The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) has been upgrading its computers since they became operational in 1966, because officials were aware that the missile warning and space surveillance system computers originally installed would not meet growing mission requirements for very long. In 1970, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) established a program for all Unified and Specified Commands to improve and standardize computers in the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS). NORAD, as a Specified Command, was included. NORAD concluded that the computers planned for WWMCCS would not be adequate for mission requirements. This has proven to be the case, and the computer problems combined with fragmented and ineffective implementation management have undermined the NORAD development effort. GAO alerted the Air Force to the serious problems with NORAD development and recommended: (1) that NORAD be exempted from using future standard JCS computers; (2) that a redesign effort to replace the major systems with state-of-the-art equipment be launched; and (3) that a faulty power system be upgraded to protect critical computers. Effective action was not taken on the recommendations, and the Air Force accepted the deficient system in September 1979. Since that time, several significant missile warning system failures have occurred. In its most recent review, GAO found that: (1) problems with the NORAD computer are not in any way related to the Brooks Act requirements applicable to the procurement of computers; and (2) in establishing a centralized automatic data processing (ADP) management structure, NORAD appears to be following the logical approach that GAO has advocated in prior reports. The problems experienced by NORAD in its computer development program are primarily attributable to poor planning and management and the attempt to force-fit user requirements to a particular type of equipment. This has become the rule rather than the exception with most Department of Defense ADP procurements.

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