Two GAO reports about the military's unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) explore issues involving planning, training, and acquisition commonalities and efficiencies.
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The Department of Defense (DOD) requested about $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2010 for new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and for expanded capabilities in existing ones. To support ongoing operations, the Air Force and Army have acquired a greater number of larger systems. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which (1) plans were in place to account for the personnel, facilities, and communications infrastructure needed to support Air Force and Army UAS inventories; (2) DOD addressed challenges that affect the ability of the Air Force and the Army to train personnel for UAS operations; and (3) DOD updated its publications that articulate doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures to reflect the knowledge gained from using UAS in ongoing operations. Focusing on UAS programs supporting ongoing operations, GAO reviewed the services’ program and funding plans in light of DOD’s requirements definition and acquisition policy; interviewed UAS personnel in the United States and in Iraq about training experiences; and reviewed joint, multiservice, and service- specific publications.
For the last several years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has planned to invest billions of dollars in development and procurement of unmanned aircraft systems. In its fiscal year 2011 budget request the department indicated a significant increase in these investments, expecting to need more than $24 billion from 2010 through 2015. DOD recognizes that to leverage its resources more effectively, it must achieve greater commonality among the military services’ unmanned aircraft system acquisition programs.
Most of the 10 programs reviewed had experienced cost increases, schedule delays, performance shortfalls, or some combination of these problems. The programs’ development cost estimates increased by more than $3 billion collectively, or 37 percent, from initial estimates. Procurement funding requirements for most programs also increased, primarily because of increases in numbers of aircraft being procured, changes in system requirements, and upgrades and retrofits to fielded systems. Procurement unit costs increased by an average of 12 percent, with three aircraft programs experiencing unit cost increases of 25 percent or more. Four programs reported delays of 1 year or more in delivering capability to the warfighter. Global Hawk, Predator, Reaper, and Shadow had been used in combat operations with success and lessons learned, but had been rushed into service in some cases, leading to performance issues and delays in development and operational testing and verification.
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