Tank: U.S. Defense Director for Operational Test & Evaluation

Location: The Pentagon

Profile: The internal test and evaluation agency for U.S. military weapons and systems

While its rather grim findings on the USAF F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Navy Littoral Combat Ship had previously been leaked or appeared in other government documents, the latest annual report from the Defense Department's director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E), released last month, still contained enough gems to make news.

Department head J. Michael Gilmore wrote that of the 311 Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) his office reviewed in fiscal 2011, 67 experienced either significant delays and/or so-called Nunn-McCurdy breaches, with 36 reaching formal Nunn-McCurdy breach status. Nunn-McCurdy, named after its legislative sponsors in Congress at the time, refers to a law that requires congressional notification and Pentagon certification of programs that exceed certain cost and schedule slippages. According to the DOT&E, the 67 programs accounted for a whopping 158 delays.

Further broken down by military department, the report says 55%—or six of 11—of the Army MDAPs were able to meet their reliability thresholds, with aviation (CH-47 and UH-72), and trucks and artillery performing well, “while networks and unmanned systems did not do well.” Sixty-three percent (17 of 27) of the Navy and Marine Corps systems studied met their reliability thresholds, with the majority of the reliable ones being “aircraft or aircraft-related systems developed in [the Naval Air Systems Command], such as the H-1 upgrades to the AH-1W and UH-1N helicopters, as well as the MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters,” Gilmore notes. “Other reliable systems were submarines and related systems such as the USS Virginia, USS Ohio and the TB-34 towed array.” The Air Force did not fare quite so well, with a mere 27% (three of 11) programs meeting their reliability thresholds. “The three systems that performed reliably were the B-2 Radar Modernization program, Space-based Surveillance System and the C-5 Reliability Improvement and Reengining program,” he writes, while “other programs such as Small-Diameter Bomb, Global Broadcast Service, Joint Mission Planning System, MQ-9 Reaper, Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft and Global Hawk demonstrated poor reliability.”

While the report concludes that testing and test requirements normally do not cause major program delays or drive costs, issues such as quality control, software development, scheduling and poor performance during testing are factors that have caused program delays.

—Paul McLeary