Amphibious Combat Vehicle: Program Should Take Steps to Ensure Manufacturing Readiness
(Source: US Government Accountability Office; issued April 17, 2018)
The first version of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV 1.1) is on track to meet development cost goals with no additional anticipated delays for major acquisition milestones.

With regard to costs, the development phase of ACV 1.1 is on pace to not exceed cost goals that were established at the start of development, based on a recent Navy estimate, the ACV program office, and reporting from the contractors. For example, a September 2017 program progress review reported a Navy estimate of the cost of development at $750.7 million, less than the $810.5 million baseline established at the beginning of development.

With regard to schedule, the ACV program has made no major changes to the acquisition schedule since GAO previously reported on the program in April 2017. ACV 1.1 program officials are in the process of preparing to down-select to a single contactor and enter low-rate production in June 2018, start a second round of low rate production the following year, and begin full-rate production in 2020.

ACV 1.1 may be followed by the acquisition of other versions (ACV 1.2 and ACV 2.0) with advanced capabilities such as higher water speeds.

The ACV program is preparing to start production of ACV 1.1, which includes determining that the contractors' manufacturing capabilities are sufficiently mature. However, program officials are considering entering production with a lower level of manufacturing maturity than called for in Department of Defense (DOD) guidance or GAO identified best practices.

The ACV program measures manufacturing maturity with manufacturing readiness levels (MRL) for risk areas such as design, materials, process capability and control, and quality management. DOD guidance for weapons acquisition production recommends that programs achieve an MRL of 8 across all risk areas before entering low-rate production and that a program achieve an MRL of 9 at the start of full-rate production.

GAO's previous reviews about manufacturing best practices found that achieving manufacturing maturity and identifying production risks early in the acquisition cycle and assessing those risks prior to key decision points, such as the decision to enter production, reduces the likelihood of quality issues, cost growth, and delays.

The Marine Corps contract option for producing the first round of low-rate production for ACV 1.1 will be exercised after June 2018; the contract also contains additional options for production vehicles.

Making the decisions to proceed with the second round of low-rate production and for the start of full-rate production before meeting called-for levels of manufacturing readiness criteria increases the risk that ACV 1.1 will witness delays and increased costs.

Why GAO Did This Study
In June 2018, the United States Marine Corps plans to select a contractor and begin low-rate production for the ACV, a vehicle used to transport Marines from ship to shore under hostile conditions. The ACV will replace all or part of the current Assault Amphibious Vehicle fleet.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 included a provision for GAO to annually review and report on the ACV program until 2018. This report, GAO's last under that provision, assesses the extent to which the Marine Corps is making progress toward (1) meeting cost and schedule goals for the ACV program and (2) demonstrating manufacturing readiness.

GAO reviewed program cost estimates, updated schedules, and program assessments of test results and production readiness, as well as compared ACV acquisition efforts to DOD guidance and GAO-identified best practices. GAO also interviewed program and testing officials, and visited both ACV primary assembly locations.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends the Marine Corps (1) not enter the second year of low-rate production for ACV 1.1 until after the contractor has achieved an overall MRL of 8 and (2) not enter full-rate production until achieving an overall MRL of 9. DOD partially concurred with both recommendations, but noted that it is reasonable to proceed at lower MRL levels if steps are taken to mitigate risk. GAO made no changes to its recommendations in response to these comments.


Click here for the full report (26 PDF pages)on the GAO website.

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