Over the past year, the overall size of DOD’s major defense acquisition program portfolio decreased, from 80 programs to 78, while the estimated cost has decreased by $7.6 billion. The size and cost of the portfolio is currently the lowest in a decade.
The decrease in current portfolio cost is due primarily to significant quantity decreases on two programs—most other programs actually experienced a cost increase over the past year. The average time to deliver initial capability to the warfighter also increased by over one month.
Forty-one programs in the portfolio lost buying power during the past year resulting in $5.3 billion in additional costs, a contrast to the buying power gains seen in GAO’s prior assessments.
The F-35, the costliest program in the portfolio, epitomizes this loss in buying power as its costs have risen over the past year without any change in quantity, meaning it is paying more for the same amount of capability. (Emphasis added)
Most of the 38 programs GAO assessed this year are not yet fully following a knowledge-based acquisition approach. This held true for the six programs that recently entered system development. Each implemented some knowledge based practices—such as constraining the period for development—but some practices—such as fully maturing technologies prior to system development start and completing systems engineering reviews—were not fully implemented.
As a result, programs will carry unwanted risk into subsequent phases of acquisition that could result in cost growth or schedule delays.
Implementation of the reform initiatives GAO analyzed varies for the 38 programs assessed above as well as the 15 assessed that will become programs in the future.
While more programs are implementing acquisition reform initiatives now than in past assessments—such as the use of affordability constraints and increased opportunities for competition—several programs requiring significant funding commitments have received waivers from components of a mandatory certification at system development start.
However, concurrently conducting both software and hardware development during production may be exposing programs to undue cost and schedule risk.
Click here for the full report (198 PDF pages) on the GAO website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the past 12 months, the cost of the F-35 program increased by $4.3 billion, the GAO found, with no commensurate increase in performance or availability.)