This is GAO’s 18th annual assessment of DOD acquisition programs. GAO’s prior assessments covered major defense acquisition programs. This year’s assessment expands to include selected major IT systems and rapid prototyping and rapid fielding programs, in response to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.
This report (1) summarizes the characteristics of 121 weapon and IT programs, (2) examines cost and schedule measures and other topics for these same programs, and (3) summarizes selected organizational and legislative changes.
GAO identified the 121 programs for review based on their cost and acquisition status. GAO selected organizational and legislative changes that it determined related to the execution and oversight of the 121 programs.
GAO reviewed relevant legislation and DOD reports, collected data from program offices through a questionnaire, and interviewed DOD officials.
Additional analyses and assessments of major IT programs are included in a companion report to be issued later this year.
Major Defense Acquisition Programs
MDAPs have generally stabilized non-quantity-related cost growth and schedule growth but continue to proceed with limited knowledge and inconsistent software development approaches and cybersecurity practices.
Between 2018 and 2019, total acquisition cost estimates for DOD’s 85 current MDAPs grew by a combined $64 billion (a 4 percent increase), growth that was driven by decisions to increase planned quantities of some weapon systems.
For example, DOD more than doubled in the past year the total number of missiles it plans to acquire through the Air Force’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile program. Also between 2018 and 2019, capability delivery schedules for MDAPs increased, on average, by just over 1 month (a 1 percent increase).
However, MDAPs’ cost and schedule performance is less encouraging as measured against their original approved program baselines. MDAPs have accumulated over $628 billion (or 54 percent) in total cost growth since program start, most of which is unrelated to the increase in quantities purchased.
Additionally, over the same time period, time required to deliver initial capabilities has increased by 30 percent, resulting in an average delay of more than 2 years.
Click here for the full report (251 PDF pages), on the GAO website.