Missile DefenseTHAAD Restructure Addresses Problems But Limits Early Capability Gao ID: NSIAD-99-142 June 30, 1999
Studies done by the military and independent sources cited the following problems in the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Program: First, the program's compressed flight-test schedule did not allow for adequate ground testing, and officials could not spot problems before flight tests. The schedule also left too little time for preflight testing, postflight analysis, and corrective measures. Second, the requirement that an early prototype system be deployed quickly has diverted attention from the normal interceptor development process and resulted in interceptors that were not equipped with sufficient instruments to provide optimum test data. Third, quality assurance received too little emphasis and resources during component production, resulting in unreliable components. Fourth, the contract to develop the interceptor was a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, which placed all of the financial risk on the government and did not hold the contractor accountable for less than optimum performance. The restructure program addresses each of these four underlying problems. However, the reliability of current flight-test interceptors remains a concern because most components were produced when the contractor's quality assurance system was inadequate. Test failures caused primarily by manufacturing defects rather than advanced technology problems have prevented the Army from demonstrating that THAAD can reliably intercept targets in all required regions. The restructuring of the THAAD program raised the issue of what the purpose of the User Operational Evaluation System battalion at Fort Bliss should now be. Whether all or only part of the battalion would warrant deployment for contingency operations would depend on the capabilities it could provide to warfighters and the priority of the need for one or more of those capabilities. However, there would be little basis for making a deployment determination because the Defense Department does not plan to conduct an operational assessment of the User Operational Evaluation System.
GAO noted that: (1) the program's compressed flight-test schedule did not allow for adequate ground testing; (2) the requirement to be able to quickly deploy an early prototype system diverted the contractor and government project management's attention away from the normal interceptor development process and resulted in interceptors that were not equipped with sufficient instruments to provide optimum test data; (3) quality assurance received insufficient emphasis and resources during the time of component production; (4) the contract for developing the interceptor was a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, a contract type that placed all of the program's financial risk on the government and did not include provisions that could be used to hold the contractor accountable for less than optimum performance; (5) flight-test failures have been caused primarily by manufacturing defects rather than problems with advanced technology; (6) these failures have prevented the Army from demonstrating that it can reliably employ the hit-to-kill technology critical to THAAD's success; (7) the restructured program addresses each of the program's four underlying problems: (a) it lengthens the flight-test schedule and increases ground testing; (b) removes the requirement for the deployable, early prototype interceptors; (c) increases the contractor's quality emphasis, including its commitment, leadership, and quality assurance staffing; and (d) modifies the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide performance-based incentives and penalties and introduces a degree of competition into the program; (8) despite these changes, the reliability of the remaining flight-test interceptors remains a concern because most components were produced when the contractor's quality assurance system was inadequate; (9) the program restructuring puts into question the need to retain a fully staffed User Operational Evaluation System battalion; (10) the battalion will have little or no capability to intercept ballistic missiles because interceptors will not be available for the prototype system unless interceptors intended for tests are diverted to the battalion; and (11) according to the Army Training and Doctrine Command's system manager for THAAD, the THAAD radar could be used for predicting the launch and impact points of enemy missiles, but no requirement exists for THAAD to perform that mission and no independent assessment of the prototype radar's capabilities is planned.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: