Importance and Prevalence of Embedded Computer Systems and Oversight of This Technology by the Office of the Secretary of Defense

Gao ID: T-IMTEC-90-8 April 26, 1990

GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) increasing incorporation of embedded computer resources within major weapons systems. GAO noted that: (1) embedded computer resources had significant roles in the functioning of virtually all defense weapons systems, and it was conceivable that all major weapons systems could be computer-controlled in the future; (2) DOD investment in mission-critical software increased from about $9 billion in 1985 to $30 billion in 1990; (3) embedded computer resources typically accounted for less than 10 percent of the development costs for weapons systems; (4) problems with embedded resources have resulted in weapons system cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls, and correcting such problems could become a significant but hidden cost of weapons system development; (5) the DOD process for overseeing weapons system development did not focus management attention on embedded computer systems or their technical and managerial risks; and (6) DOD established an executive-level group to review its oversight of software development, was revising a directive to provide more rigorous management attention to the management of embedded computer resources, and was developing a 5-year plan for improving its software acquisition and management approach.

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