Opportunities Exist to Expedite Development and Fielding of Joint Capabilities

April 24, 2012

A majority of the initiatives GAO reviewed (26 of 30) met, or expected to meet, the Department of Defense's (DOD) expectation for fielding a capability in response to joint urgent operational needs within 2 years. However, performance in meeting schedule estimates varied, and more than half of the initiatives experienced schedule delays.

Initiatives leveraged three types of solutions: (1) off-the-shelf products, (2) modifications of off-the-shelf items to add capabilities, and (3) products requiring technology development. Off-the-shelf solutions should be fielded the quickest because existing products are being bought. However, while off-the-shelf solutions were fielded quickly once a contract was awarded, it took longer than the two other types to identify, fund, and contract for off-the-shelf solutions. In addition to the program offices that manage traditional acquisition programs, initiatives were also managed by research laboratories and engineering centers, such as the Army Research Laboratory or the Naval Surface Warfare Center. Program offices fielded solutions faster, in part, because program offices are experienced in the full range of acquisition activities. Also, laboratories and engineering centers depended on funding provided by other organizations and delays in receiving this funding affected the start of some initiatives.

Acquisition organizations employed various practices to overcome challenges affecting fielding of capabilities within short time frames. For example, although these practices could affect the prices paid, shorter times were associated with using existing contracts, awarding contracts without agreeing on contract terms (prices), or awarding contracts without competition. U.S. Central Command officials stated that they were not aware of all initiatives underway or the expected schedule for fielding capabilities and this could affect planning activities. In some cases, initiative decision memorandums were prepared that documented schedule estimates but such memorandums are not required for all initiatives. Also, some organizations were proactive in communicating with U.S. Central Command and this facilitated a clearer understanding of requirements and plans for fielding initiatives, but regular communication is not required. 

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