Weapons testing isn't red tape, it doesn't drive requirements creep, it doesn't delay programs, and it doesn't add substantial cost (it makes up 1 percent of total program acquisition cost). Instead, an independent team chartered by the Defense Acquisition Executive found that the area that needed improvement was the relationship and interaction between the testing, requirements, and program management communities. According to a new Defense Department (DoD) memo obtained by POGO, the independent team found that the DoD needs:
- Stronger mechanisms for rapid adaptation to emerging facts by the requirements, acquisition, and test communities and less resistance to change;
- A requirements process that produces well-defined, and therefore testable requirements;
- An executable plan to use developmental and operational testing together as a means to achieve and demonstrate success; and
- To ensure that expected and healthy tension between the program and test community don't turn to animosity by having early and objective communication of concerns and issues.
The new independent team's findings also echo the findings of a 1990 Defense Science Board review. Former Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Tom Christie describes the problems in detail in his Pentagon Labyrinth essay, "Developing, Buying and Fielding Superior Weapon Systems," noting that some of these problems played a major role in schedule delays and cost overruns:
That 1990 DSB review concluded that failure to identify and admit to technical problems, as well as real costs, before entry into what was known as Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED)—now referred to as Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD)—was the overwhelming cause for subsequent schedule delays, often years, and the resulting cost growth. Oversight enabled the discovery and reporting of test failures during FSED/EMD that often necessitated additional time and dollars for system redesign, testing and retesting of fixes, and costly retrofits of those fixes.
Mandy Smithberger is a POGO Investigator.
Image: Ed Yourdon