Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs

March 28, 2013

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) 2012 portfolio of 86 major defense acquisition programs is estimated to cost a total of $1.6 trillion, reflecting decreases in both size and cost from the 2011 portfolio. Those decreases are largely the result of more programs exiting than entering the portfolio, as well as reductions in procurement quantities due to program cancelations and restructurings. Notably a majority of programs in the portfolio gained buying power in the last year as their acquisition unit costs decreased. DOD's 10 costliest programs, excluding the Missile Defense Agency's Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), drive most of the portfolio's cost performance and funding needs. The majority (65 percent) of the funding that DOD estimates it will need to complete its current programs is associated with those 10 programs, and almost all of that funding is for procurement.

Continuing a positive trend over the past 4 years, newer acquisition programs are demonstrating higher levels of knowledge at key decision points, although many programs are still not fully adhering to a knowledge-based acquisition approach. Of the 32 programs that provided GAO with technology maturity, 5 reached full maturity while another 14 were near maturity when they began development. Four of the 5 programs with fully mature technologies started in the last 5 years. Less than one-third of the programs providing design data achieved design stability at their critical design review. Many of the programs are capturing critical manufacturing knowledge prior to production, but their methods vary.

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