Report: Weapons projects suffer from budget struggle

The Pentagon routinely approves new weapons systems before evaluating their feasibility, according to a new General Accounting Office report. The report, "Best Practices: Better Matching of Needs and Resources Will Lead to Better Weapon Systems Outcomes" ( GAO-01-288), surveyed the development of nine big-ticket weapon projects to identify why new weapons are subject to cost overruns and production delays. The Defense Department does not square the performance requirements of new weapons with the manufacturer's resources until projects have already been approved, leading to budget-busting delays when engineers try to design the weapons, the report said. Defense develops weapons this way because each of the military services is locked in a fight for a larger slice of the Defense budget, GAO said. "The competition within [Defense] to win funding and get approval to start a new program is intense. This creates strong incentives for requirements setters to write performance requirements that will make their particular weapon system stand out from existing or alternative systems," said GAO. "Requirements setters" are Pentagon officials who determine the performance requirements that new weapons should meet. While the customers of these weapons tend to concentrate on current needs, requirements setters focus on developing weapons with future needs in mind. Because the Pentagon is reluctant to purchase costly new systems, requirements setters have an incentive to outfit new weapons with cutting-edge capability so they are clearly superior to existing systems. The production of the Army's Crusader tank is a case in point, according to GAO. To win internal approval for the Crusader, requirements setters outfitted it with a liquid propellant that enabled it to shoot farther than existing tanks. But after two years in production, the contractor developing the Crusader concluded it lacked the resources to create the propellant, forcing a major redesign. The Pentagon should identify gaps between resources and weapons requirements before approving new projects, the report concluded. GAO also called on the Pentagon to increase the involvement of high-level officials in the requirements setting process, a move that has achieved more workable weapon designs in pilot projects. The Defense Department concurred with each of the report's recommendations and pledged to step up the use of commercial business practices in the weapons acquisition process.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.