Index


Military Satellite Communications: Concerns With Milstar's Support to
Strategic and Tactical Forces (Letter Report, 11/10/98, GAO/NSIAD-99-2).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of
Defense's (DOD) multiservice Milstar system, focusing on the: (1)
Milstar system's capabilities to support strategic and tactical
missions; and (2) extent to which DOD has provided assurance of
continuing comparable satellite communications among the users after the
Milstar satellites under development are launched.

GAO noted that: (1) there are several limitations associated with the
Milstar system's capabilities to support strategic missions; (2)
although the Milstar I system has been deployed for over 2 years, a May
1998 draft operational test report revealed that system support could be
limited in some critical strategic mission areas; (3) operational
testing showed that military commanders could not communicate by voice
in a timely and intelligible manner, when using the low data rate
capabilities; (4) this limitation was attributable to inherent
characteristics of Milstar's low data rate technology and associated
peripheral equipment; (5) operational testing of the missile warning
teletype network was planned, but not performed, to verify that accurate
and timely ballistic missile alert messages could be transmitted from
North American Aerospace Defense Command to other strategic command
centers; (6) a subsequent Air Force test of this teletype network
determined that a required redundancy check for data accuracy could not
be performed without software modifications; (7) operational testing
revealed a Milstar system endurance issue, associated with the nuclear
bomber force, that must be resolved because of the requirement for
continuous communication capabilities if the bomber force needed to be
recalled or redirected; (8) testing showed that the configuration of
peripheral equipment and its accompanying software has not been
effectively controlled or fully certified to ensure communications
interoperability with the Milstar system; (9) DOD has identified
corrective actions for the limitations in these four areas; (10) final
resolutions are dependent on approval of requirements, verification
through testing, a certification process, or obtaining necessary funds;
(11) DOD has not provided assurance that the continuity of protected
medium data rate satellite communication capabilities will be maintained
for tactical forces after the four Milstar II satellites are launched;
(12) the satellite constellation's communication capabilities are
predicted to degrade below a minimally acceptable level in fiscal year
(FY) 2003, before the advanced satellite system is expected to be
available in FY 2006; (13) the deployment of Milstar II tactical
terminals is expected to be completed by 2003, and tactical forces will
have become dependent on the Milstar II system; (14) this situation
could result in users not having the communications capacity they
require to execute their missions; and (15) DOD has not fully assessed
the associated operational risks to tactical forces.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-99-2
     TITLE:  Military Satellite Communications: Concerns With Milstar's 
             Support to Strategic and Tactical Forces
      DATE:  11/10/98
   SUBJECT:  Communication satellites
             Military satellites
             ADP procurement
             Navigation aids
             Operational testing
             Ballistic missiles
             Military communication
             Defense capabilities
             Confidential communication
             National defense operations
IDENTIFIER:  MILSTAR
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Committee
on Appropriations, House of Representatives

November 1998

MILITARY SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS
- CONCERNS WITH MILSTAR'S SUPPORT
TO STRATEGIC AND TACTICAL FORCES

GAO/NSIAD-99-2

Military Satellite Communications

(707293)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  ACMS - automated communications management system
  DOD - Department of Defense
  EHF - extremely high frequency
  LDR - low data rates
  MDR - medium data rate

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-278426

November 10, 1998

The Honorable C.  W.  Bill Young
Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

The Department of Defense's (DOD) multiservice Milstar system is
intended to provide the National Command Authorities, chief military
commanders, and strategic and tactical military forces with a highly
protected and survivable means of communications that would be
operable nearly worldwide and throughout all levels of military
conflict.\1 The Milstar program involves the acquisition of
satellites; a mission control capability; and specially designed
Army, Navy, and Air Force terminals for a variety of users operating
from ground-mobile vehicles, ships, submarines, aircraft, and
fixed-ground locations. 

As you requested, we evaluated (1) the Milstar system's capabilities
to support strategic and tactical missions and (2) the extent to
which DOD has provided assurance of continuing comparable satellite
communications among the users after the Milstar satellites under
development are launched. 


--------------------
\1 The National Command Authorities are the President and the
Secretary of Defense or their duly deputized alternates or
successors.  Protected and survivable communications means that the
system is relatively resistant to electronic jamming and some effects
of nuclear detonations.  For Milstar, nearly worldwide communications
means satellite coverage of the earth within 65 degrees south and
65 degrees north latitudes. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

DOD initiated the Milstar program under Air Force management in the
early 1980s.  Milstar is intended to be DOD's most robust
communications satellite system.  It is designed to operate in the
extremely high frequency (EHF) radio spectrum, although it has super
high frequency and ultra high frequency capabilities, and it was
originally designed to transmit signals at low data rates (LDR).\2
Milstar employs computer processing capabilities on the satellites
and several different radio signal processing techniques that provide
resistance to electronic jamming.  Computer processing associated
with other DOD communication satellite systems is primarily performed
with ground-based equipment and is considered to be less resistant to
electronic jamming. 

In 1990, as the Cold War subsided, the Congress directed DOD to
either restructure the Milstar system or develop an alternative
advanced communications system to (1) substantially reduce the cost
of the Milstar program, (2) eliminate unnecessary capabilities for
protracted nuclear war-fighting missions and operations, and (3)
increase the usefulness of the program for tactical forces.  DOD
chose to restructure the system.  As a result of the 1991 Gulf War
experience, DOD established a basis for increased Milstar support to
tactical forces by using a medium data rate (MDR) communications
capability.\3

Currently, there are two Milstar satellite designs--the LDR version,
called Milstar I, and a combined LDR and MDR version, called Milstar
II.  A total of six satellites are included in the program--two
Milstar I satellites were launched in 1994 and 1995, and four Milstar
II satellites are being fabricated and are scheduled to be launched
in fiscal years 1999 through 2002.  As a follow-on effort, DOD has
initiated an advanced EHF satellite communications program to replace
the Milstar I and II designs, with plans to launch the first advanced
satellite in fiscal year 2006. 

Since program inception, DOD has spent several billions of dollars to
acquire the Milstar I and II satellites, a mission control
capability, and a variety of user terminals.\4 In total, DOD has
procured, or plans to procure, over 3,500 terminals.  In addition, it
is planning to spend several more billions of dollars for the
advanced EHF satellite system. 


--------------------
\2 EHF radio signals range from 30 to 300 gigahertz within the
electromagnetic spectrum.  Super high frequencies range from 3 to 30
gigahertz and ultra-high frequencies range from 300 to 3,000
megahertz.  Milstar's LDR transmissions are at speeds of 75 to 2,400
bits per second. 

\3 Milstar's MDR transmissions are to be at speeds ranging from 4,800
to 1,544,000 bits per second, thus significantly increasing the
volume of data processed through the satellites.  For background on
Milstar program restructuring, see Military Satellite Communications: 
Milstar Program Issues and Cost-Saving Opportunities
(GAO/NSIAD-92-121, June 26, 1992). 

\4 For national security reasons, the total amount of funds invested
in Milstar cannot be disclosed. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

There are several limitations associated with the Milstar system's
capabilities to support strategic missions.  Although the Milstar I
system, which is primarily for strategic communications purposes, has
been deployed for over 2 years, a May 1998 draft operational test
report revealed that system support could be limited in some critical
strategic mission areas.  First, operational testing showed that
military commanders could not communicate by voice in a timely and
intelligible manner, when using the low data rate capabilities.  The
purpose of such voice communications is to discuss whether a
ballistic missile launch threatens North America, and if so, to
determine the appropriate retaliatory response.  This limitation was
attributable to inherent characteristics of Milstar's low data rate
technology and associated peripheral equipment (referred to as
input-output communication devices).  Second, operational testing of
the missile warning teletype network was planned, but not performed,
to verify that accurate and timely ballistic missile alert messages
could be transmitted from the North American Aerospace Defense
Command to other strategic command centers.  A subsequent Air Force
test of this teletype network determined that a required redundancy
check for data accuracy could not be performed without software
modifications.  Third, operational testing revealed a Milstar system
endurance issue, associated with the nuclear bomber force, that must
be resolved because of the requirement for continuous communication
capabilities if the bomber force needed to be recalled or redirected. 
Fourth, testing showed that the configuration of peripheral equipment
and its accompanying software has not been effectively controlled or
fully certified to ensure communications interoperability with the
Milstar system.  DOD has identified corrective actions for the
limitations in these four areas.  However, final resolutions are
dependent on approval of requirements, verification through testing,
a certification process, or obtaining necessary funds. 

Regarding tactical missions, the Air Force has encountered schedule
delays related to software development for a critical Milstar
component--called the automated communications management
system--that could adversely affect Milstar II's timely support to
tactical forces.  This management system is intended to allocate and
apportion Milstar's limited communication capabilities among multiple
system users.  A previous Air Force effort to develop such a
management system encountered technical difficulties, resulting in
the contractual work being canceled.  Delays in delivering the
current software have caused the Army to independently initiate an
upgrade to the less sophisticated Milstar I communications management
system for use with Army terminals.  This upgrade effort, while
compatible with the Army's terminal testing schedule, will require
the Army to reconfigure its equipment and software and retrain its
forces when the automated communications management system becomes
available at a future date. 

DOD has not provided assurance that the continuity of protected
medium data rate satellite communication capabilities will be
maintained for tactical forces after the four Milstar II satellites
are launched.  The satellite constellation's communication
capabilities, in terms of total capacity, are predicted to degrade
below a minimally acceptable level in fiscal
year 2003, before the advanced satellite system is expected to be
available in fiscal year 2006.  This prediction is based on computer
modeling that takes factors such as satellite component reliability
into account.  In addition, the deployment of Milstar II tactical
user terminals is expected to be completed in 2003, and tactical
forces will have become dependent on the Milstar II system.  This
situation, coupled with the degraded satellite constellation's
capabilities, could result in users not having the communications
capacity they require or expect to execute their missions.  Although
DOD has been aware of this potential degradation in satellite
communications for several years, it has not fully assessed the
associated operational risks to tactical forces. 


   MILSTAR I SUPPORT TO SOME
   CRITICAL STRATEGIC MISSION
   AREAS COULD BE LIMITED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The Milstar I system is expected to provide communication networks in
support of designated strategic mission areas.  For example, in
regard to strategic ballistic missile threats to North America, the
system is expected to (1) transmit missile warning data from sensor
processing sites to command centers, (2) provide commanders a means
of exchanging information about ballistic missile attack assessments,
and (3) disseminate critical messages to forces on how to respond to
missile attacks.  However, a May 1998 draft operational test report,
prepared by the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center,
concluded that although the Milstar system was found to be effective
for communications during normal operations, numerous deficiencies
would require corrective action before the full nuclear wartime
strategic capabilities could be realized.  Deficiencies in three
areas were highlighted--(1) military commanders' voice conference
network, (2) missile warning teletype network, and (3) emergency
action message dissemination and force direction network.  The
deficiencies were associated with system connectivity--a critical
operational issue that addresses the primary mission of Milstar to
provide minimum essential worldwide communications among all services
at all levels of military conflict. 

The purpose of the operational test was to evaluate the effectiveness
and suitability of the in-orbit Milstar I satellite system. 
According to operational test officials, testing was hampered
because, in some instances, the evaluation criteria were based on
ambiguous operational requirements.  DOD has not yet completed
efforts to validate updates to the Milstar 1992 operational
requirements.  In addition, more recent testing revealed that
peripheral equipment and software to be used with Milstar has not
been effectively controlled to ensure communications interoperability
with other systems.  DOD regulations require such interoperability. 


      MILITARY COMMANDERS' VOICE
      CONFERENCE NETWORK
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.1

The purpose of the military commanders' voice conference network is
to enable commanders to discuss whether a ballistic missile launch
threatens North America, and if so, to determine the appropriate
retaliatory response.  However, operational testing and subsequent
military exercises relative to this network determined that the
National Command Authorities and the chief military commanders would
be unable to communicate by voice in a timely and intelligible
manner. 

Program officials stated that communication signal delays and poor
voice quality are inherent characteristics in Milstar LDR technology
and associated peripheral equipment.  However, they believe that
voice conference quality can be improved by (1) assigning additional
communication channels to the strategic commanders, thereby
simplifying time consuming hand-over procedures and improving
timeliness; (2) consolidating voice signals through communication
switches to make conferencing more efficient and user friendly; and
(3) upgrading software algorithms to improve voice intelligibility. 
According to Joint Staff representatives, requirements and funding
issues must be resolved before a date can be established for making
these corrections. 


      MISSILE WARNING TELETYPE
      NETWORK
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.2

The purpose of the missile warning teletype network is to provide
alert messages of a pending ballistic missile attack.  Transmitting
accurate and timely messages from the North American Aerospace
Defense Command to other strategic command centers is critical to
ensuring a timely retaliatory response to an attack.  However,
operational testing of this network was not performed.  In our
attempt to determine the reason, we were provided with two
viewpoints--(1) Milstar support to the missile warning and assessment
mission area had not been approved for testing by Milstar program
officials and (2) there was a conflict with another operational test
being performed at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.  The result was
that operational test officials could not verify that ballistic
missile alert messages could be reliably transmitted by the Milstar
system. 

The Air Force Space Command subsequently tested the missile warning
teletype network and identified that a required redundancy check
could not be performed to ensure data accuracy.  The Command
concluded that software modifications were necessary to ensure such
accuracy before the network could be used without restrictions.  A
U.S.  Space Command representative stated that a plan had been
approved to make the necessary software modifications, but network
certification is not expected until May 2000. 


      EMERGENCY ACTION MESSAGE
      DISSEMINATION AND FORCE
      DIRECTION NETWORK
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.3

The purpose of the emergency action message dissemination and force
direction network is to provide a means for instructing the strategic
forces on an appropriate retaliatory response to a ballistic missile
attack on North America.  Operational testing of this network
revealed that the bomber force could not sustain ultra high frequency
radio access to Milstar satellites because the radios' batteries were
not sufficiently reliable or endurable.  Battery life is one of
several Milstar endurance issues and is integrally linked with the
Milstar system's endurance requirement.  This requirement is the
length of time that the system needs to be operational during and
after a nuclear conflict.  Continuous communication capabilities with
deployed bomber forces are required if it became necessary to recall
or redirect these forces. 

The endurance deficiency may have resulted from a disagreement about
the interpretation of operational requirements.  Milstar program
officials stated that the system satisfied the 1992 Milstar
requirements for endurance and that additional requirements are being
imposed on the system.  However, U.S.  Strategic Command officials
stated that recent changes to Milstar operational requirements only
clarify endurance requirements and that the system should have
performed in a manner consistent with these requirements.  DOD does
not expect to resolve this endurance issue until 2002.  Ongoing DOD
actions include (1) the Joint Requirements Oversight Council's
approval of updated Milstar operational requirements (which are to
clarify endurance requirements) by April 1999, (2) the Director of
Operational Test and Evaluation's directions for a full test of
endurance requirements, and (3) addressing funding shortfalls
associated with endurance solutions. 


      ADDITIONAL SOFTWARE AND
      EQUIPMENT CONCERNS
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.4

The Milstar system supports multiple communication networks, and user
access to these networks is through peripheral equipment such as
telephone handsets, computers, facsimile machines, and teletypes
(referred to as input-output communication devices).  However,
testing by the Joint Staff, completed in March 1998, revealed that
the configuration of this equipment and its accompanying software had
not been effectively controlled to ensure communications
interoperability.  For example, the test report stated that network
command centers were using software, which had not been formally
approved, to interface with the Milstar system.  A test
representative told us that unless this situation is corrected, the
probability increases that Milstar's effectiveness could be degraded. 

Ensuring interoperability of peripheral equipment and software
supporting Milstar and associated networks is critical to system
operational effectiveness.  According to DOD representatives, 238
equipment and software configurations that are to interoperate with
Milstar terminals have been identified, but only 5 configurations
have been approved for use and none have been fully certified.  DOD
requires that all military command, control, communications,
computers, and intelligence systems must be certified as
interoperable with other systems with which they share information.\5
However, DOD representatives stated that they were uncertain as to
when the approval and certification process would be completed. 


--------------------
\5 DOD's interoperability guidance is contained in DOD Directive
4630.5, Nov.  12, 1992; DOD
Instruction 4630.8, Nov.  18, 1992; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff Instruction 6212.01A, June 30, 1995. 


   MILSTAR II'S SUPPORT TO
   TACTICAL FORCES COULD BE
   ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY SOFTWARE
   DEVELOPMENT DELAYS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

In fiscal year 1999, the Air Force plans to initiate operational
tests to determine the effectiveness and suitability of the Milstar
II satellite system.  In addition, the Army and the Navy plan to
operationally test their tactical terminals' capabilities to support
tactical forces.  However, schedule delays related to software
development for a critical component of the Milstar II system could
adversely affect these tests and plans for tactical forces to
transition from older communication systems to the new Milstar II
system.  The component, called the automated communications
management system (ACMS), is critical to efficient Milstar
operations.  ACMS is expected to allocate and apportion the system's
limited LDR and MDR communication capabilities among multiple system
users while permitting decentralized execution of communications
planning and management functions by these users. 

In 1989, the Milstar program office initiated efforts to develop
communications planning and resource management software, called the
Mission Planning Element.  According to a program official, the
effort was canceled in 1994 because of technical difficulties that
the contractor could not overcome.  In 1995, the program office
signed an agreement with a Navy development organization for ACMS,
which was to perform functions similar to the Mission Planning
Element.  Schedule delays since this ACMS agreement was signed have
totaled about 7 months.  ACMS is currently scheduled to be delivered
in April 1999. 

This April 1999 delivery date will not provide sufficient time for
ACMS to be integrated with the ground control station and allow for
systems operational testing with the first Milstar II satellite,
which is to be launched in January 1999.  In addition, program
officials stated that ACMS software development is on a compressed
schedule--a reduction from
24 months to 12 months--increasing the risk that the April 1999
delivery date may not be met.  This creates the potential for ACMS
not being available to support operations with the second Milstar II
satellite to be launched in December 1999, if an additional delay
occurs.  According to an Air Force official, an independent study
team, chartered by the Joint Staff, is assessing the effect of
possible delays in the ACMS schedule, including the feasibility of
meeting the planned Milstar II launch schedule. 

According to Army representatives, ACMS will not be available to
support operational testing of Army terminals, which is scheduled to
start in September 1999.  The Army's intentions were to use these
test results to decide on terminal deployment and on transitioning
its tactical forces to Milstar II.  Concerned that ACMS delivery will
be further delayed, the Army is independently upgrading the less
sophisticated, communications management system, which was developed
for Milstar I.  However, such an upgrade would only be able to
support the small number of tactical terminals expected to be
deployed for the first Milstar II satellite.  The upgrade cannot
support the increased number of tactical terminals that are expected
to be deployed after the launch of the second Milstar II satellite in
December 1999.  At that time, the need for ACMS would be critical. 
When ACMS becomes available, the Army will have to reconfigure its
equipment and software and retrain its forces. 


   CONTINUITY OF COMMUNICATION
   CAPABILITIES FOR TACTICAL
   FORCES HAS NOT BEEN ASSURED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

DOD predicts that MDR communication capabilities of the Milstar II
constellation will begin degrading in 2003--3 years before the
planned first launch of an advanced EHF satellite in fiscal year
2006.  The year 2003 is also when the deployment of MDR terminals to
tactical forces is to be completed and tactical forces will have
become dependent on the
Milstar II system.  This situation, coupled with the degraded
capabilities, could result in users not having the communications
capacity they require or expect to execute their missions. 
Therefore, if a military conflict were to occur during this 3-year
period, communications for the command and control of tactical
forces, using Milstar, could be adversely affected. 

The House Committee on Appropriations expressed concern about DOD not
giving adequate attention to operational risk during the transition
period from the Milstar II system to an advanced system, including
consideration that hundreds of Milstar terminals would be deployed by
that time.  The Committee directed the Secretary of Defense to
provide a report by March 31, 1999, to the congressional defense
committees on the effects of the communications degradation,
including suggested alternatives to minimize any adverse operational
effects.\6 Although DOD is aware of this potential degradation in
Milstar communications capabilities, it has not fully assessed the
associated operational risks. 


--------------------
\6 Report of the Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defense
Appropriations Bill, 1999 (House Report 105-591, June 22, 1998, p. 
220). 


      CONSTELLATION PREDICTED TO
      DEGRADE BEFORE ADVANCED
      SYSTEM IS AVAILABLE
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

In 1993, DOD performed a comprehensive assessment of U.S.  defense
needs in the post-Cold War international security environment--called
the Secretary of Defense's Report on the Bottom-Up Review.  The
issues of Milstar affordability and alternative satellite designs
were included in the report.  At that time, DOD decided to limit the
total number of Milstar II satellites to four, launch them in 1-year
intervals from fiscal years 1999 through 2002, and begin launching
advanced EHF satellites in fiscal year 2006. 

In 1995, DOD predicted that Milstar II's MDR communication
capabilities could begin to degrade below a minimally acceptable
level in 2003--
3 years before DOD plans to replace the system with an advanced EHF
system.  In the absence of a major failure, satellites usually
degrade gradually while in orbit, and their useful lives can be
estimated based on such factors as component reliability and fuel
availability.  DOD used a computer simulation model, known as the
Generalized Availability Program, to predict a 70-percent probability
that MDR capabilities would be maintained at a minimally acceptable
operational level until 2003.  This probability was predicted to
decrease annually to about 35 percent in 2006.\7 A 1998 degradation
analysis confirmed the 1995 results. 

To describe the predicted degradation in more practical terms for
Milstar users, the Air Force converted the probabilities into a
predicted loss of MDR communication channels.  Of the 128 planned MDR
channels for the four Milstar II satellites (32 channels per
satellite), 16 channels, or 12 percent, could fail by 2003, and 41
channels, or 32 percent, could fail by 2006. 

The Army and the Navy--the predominant planned users of Milstar II's
MDR capabilities--have expressed concern about the communications
degradation during the 3-year period.  In 1996, the Army Vice Chief
of Staff stated that accepting the 70-percent prediction criterion
placed protected EHF communications, provided by the Milstar system,
at an unacceptable level of risk to the Army's operational forces. 
Army representatives informed us that they remained concerned about
the degradation adversely affecting tactical operations.  Navy
representatives informed us that Navy Milstar terminals would have to
compete for fewer MDR resources during the 3-year period.  However,
they added that a concept of operations must be updated for using MDR
terminals and that an analysis must be performed before the full
operational effect of the degradation can be known. 


--------------------
\7 LDR capabilities are predicted to have a 70-percent probability of
maintaining a minimally acceptable operational level until 2007
because all six satellites (Milstar I and II) will contain the LDR
capability, whereas only four satellites (Milstar II) will contain
the MDR capability. 


      TACTICAL FORCES WILL BECOME
      INCREASINGLY DEPENDENT ON
      MILSTAR II BY 2003
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2

In 2003, when Milstar II satellite capacity is predicted to degrade
below the minimum acceptable level, tactical forces (especially Army
and Navy forces) are expected to complete their deployment of MDR
terminals.  By 2004, the Army and the Navy intend to complete their
transition from older communications capabilities to Milstar II. 
Therefore, these forces will have become highly dependent on Milstar
II for protected satellite communications. 

The Army has maintained that existing tactical communication systems
were not mobile enough during the 1991 Gulf War to engage in rapid
offensive operations.  Thus, the Army intends to use Milstar's unique
capabilities to extend the range of protected battlefield
communications, allowing forces to operate farther from command posts
than is possible with existing communications systems.  The Army
plans to acquire 209 mobile terminals (called Secure Mobile Anti-jam
Reliable Tactical Terminals) and deploy them by the end of 2003,
replacing older, larger, and less mobile terminals that operate with
the Defense Satellite Communications System at super high frequency. 

The Navy plans to upgrade about 90 percent of its 350 LDR terminals
with the MDR capability for ships, submarines, and shore
installations.  The first Navy battle group is scheduled to be
equipped with the MDR upgrades in fiscal year 1999, and the remaining
battle groups are expected to transition to Milstar II through fiscal
year 2003. 


      POTENTIAL ADVERSE EFFECTS OF
      SYSTEM DEGRADATION HAVE NOT
      BEEN ADDRESSED
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.3

Since 1993, DOD's efforts to develop and refine its future military
satellite communications architecture have reaffirmed the acquisition
decision documented in the Secretary of Defense's Report on the
Bottom-Up Review.  However, these efforts have also cited a need to
analyze the operational effects of degradation in MDR satellite
capacity on tactical forces. 

In 1995, a DOD satellite communications architecture study, led by
the Defense Information Systems Agency, found that delaying the
launch of follow-on Milstar satellites beyond 2003 would create a
risk in satisfying a significant portion of DOD's satellite
communication requirements.  Also in 1995, the Under Secretary of
Defense for Acquisition and Technology directed the Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and
Intelligence and the DOD Space Architect to develop recommendations
that would mitigate possible shortfalls in EHF service to be provided
by Milstar II.  The Deputy Assistant Secretary responded to that
direction, in a draft program plan, by presenting degradation
avoidance and mitigation measures but stated that more analyses was
needed.  He recommended that the DOD Space Architect conduct a
thorough analysis of the operational effects of the degradation. 

In 1996, the DOD Space Architect stated that an acceptable approach
to making the transition from Milstar II to an advanced EHF system
was to plan military operations assuming less than a fully populated
constellation of four Milstar II satellites.  This apparent
recognition of operational risk presumed that (1) because of the
fiscal environment, the year 2005 would be the earliest that an
advanced system could be developed and launched and (2) the Milstar
II constellation would probably fall below its planned capability of
four satellites before 2005 because of launch or in-orbit failures. 

In 1997, representatives of unified commands and military satellite
acquisition organizations met to refine the future military satellite
communications architecture and develop an affordable transition and
implementation plan for that architecture.  These representatives
acknowledged the risk of the Milstar constellation capacity
degradation.  However, they stated that work remains to be done in
modeling the effect of information flow on combat operations. 



   CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

Considering the importance of the Milstar system and the billions of
dollars that have been invested in the program, it is essential for
DOD to ensure that Milstar I and II capabilities will be
operationally effective and able to adequately support strategic and
tactical forces in a timely manner.  Several actions could be taken
to better substantiate the effectiveness of Milstar
capabilities--clarifying operational requirements; modifying software
to ensure network communications connectivity; certifying peripheral
equipment and associated software to affirm communications
interoperability; and ensuring timely development of the automated
communications management system. 

Because the Milstar II satellite constellation's communications
capacity is predicted to degrade from fiscal years 2003 through 2006,
when an advanced capability is to be available, the continuity of
protected and mobile satellite communications capacity is a
potentially significant issue.  In addition, because the deployment
of Milstar II terminals is expected to be completed by fiscal year
2003, such degradation in communications capacity could result in
users not having the capabilities they require or expect to execute
their missions.  Until DOD assesses the potential operational risk to
tactical military forces for this 2003 to 2006 satellite transition
period, as directed by the House Committee on Appropriations, the
seriousness of this matter will be unknown. 


   RECOMMENDATIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

In conjunction with the report that DOD is directed to provide by
March 31, 1999, to the congressional defense committees on the
effects of Milstar communications degradation, we recommend that the
Secretary of Defense provide information on the status and progress
of DOD's efforts to resolve Milstar I operational issues and Milstar
II developmental issues.  This information should include technical,
schedule, testing, and funding matters pertinent to (1) achieving
user-to-user strategic communication network connectivity and (2)
managing the development difficulties associated with the automated
communications management system. 

In assessing the operational risks associated with the predicted
degradation of Milstar communications, as directed by the House
Committee on Appropriations, we recommend that the Secretary of
Defense specifically address (1) the minimally acceptable level of
extremely high frequency satellite communications needed to support
tactical forces and (2) the capability of the Milstar system to
provide this minimum level of communications until an advanced
extremely high frequency communications capability is deployed. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR
   EVALUATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

DOD disagreed with our recommendation in the draft report that the
Secretary of Defense provide the necessary directions to the military
services and commands for (1) resolving the disagreements over
operational requirements, (2) ensuring the availability of necessary
software, (3) completing the certification process for interoperable
equipment and software, and (4) managing the difficulties in
developing the automated communications management system.  DOD
stated that although our draft report was essentially correct in
describing Milstar issues during the 1997 operational test period,
additional Secretary of Defense directions to resolve these issues
are unnecessary.  DOD claimed that the issues were being resolved and
corrective actions were being taken through standard DOD processes
and procedures associated with developing and fielding new
capabilities.  For example, DOD mentioned general officer level
forums that were (1) providing ongoing oversight of operational,
programmatic, and management issues affecting Milstar and (2)
tracking issues to fulfill Secretary of Defense guidance for the
transition of strategic users to Milstar by 2003. 

In acknowledging the Milstar I issues identified during operational
testing, DOD emphasized that the Milstar system passed 14 of 17
threshold parameters.  However, according to operational test
officials, these parameters were more representative of system
specifications than operational requirements that would permit a
judgment about Milstar's support to strategic mission areas.  DOD
identified several matters that remain to be resolved for achieving
an effective strategic and tactical communications system.  The
matters were (1) funding for voice conferencing network upgrades to
improve timeliness and voice quality; (2) completing software
upgrades, equipment installations, and certification of the missile
warning teletype network; (3) performing operational testing of
nuclear bomber force communications and endurance requirements; (4)
implementing a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction,
that addresses the management of satellite communications, to ensure
interoperability certification of input-output communication devices,
which are critical for user-to-user communications connectivity; and
(5) completing ACMS development and performing tests to demonstrate
the complex function of allocating and apportioning the fixed amount
of Milstar communications capabilities.  Considering the number and
variety of Milstar matters that still need attention, we believe DOD
should provide status and progress information for resolving these
matters to the congressional defense committees.  Accordingly, we
modified our recommendation to the Secretary from providing
directions to the services to reporting on the status and progress of
resolving operational and developmental issues. 

DOD also disagreed with our recommendation dealing with the minimum
level of extremely high frequency satellite communications needed to
support tactical forces and the extent that Milstar could provide
that level of communications until an advanced extremely high
frequency communications capability is deployed.  DOD stated that (1)
it previously addressed the operational risk to tactical forces
associated with the planned transition from Milstar to the advanced
extremely high frequency satellite system; (2) another satellite
system could provide some, but less effective, protected
communications during the transition period; and (3) an additional
review of this issue by the Secretary of Defense is unnecessary.  DOD
cited (1) the Joint Space Management Board as having approved
military satellite communications architecture goals, strategy, and
milestones; (2) the Defense Resource Board as having funded military
satellite communication systems consistent with the architecture; and
(3) the Joint Requirements Oversight Council as having endorsed an
architecture transition plan based on a general officer level forum's
evaluation of all future military satellite communication satellite
requirements and capabilities through 2010. 

DOD has apparently given considerable high-level attention to the
predicted degradation in Milstar communication capabilities for the
2003 to 2006 period.  Also, there is evidence that the operational
risk accepted for this time period was based on financial, and
possibly technical, reasons as to when an advanced extremely high
frequency capability could be made available.  Although this decision
was originally made in 1993, and subsequently reaffirmed by various
DOD authorities, it does not overcome the potential condition of
insufficient protected communications for tactical forces during the
3-year transition period.  DOD did not specifically address our point
regarding what minimum level of extremely high frequency
communications would be needed during the period, other than to state
that the tactical requirement for protected communications far
exceeds Milstar capabilities and tactical forces are not totally
dependent on Milstar for protected communications.  Nor did DOD
address whether Milstar could provide that minimum level until an
advanced capability is deployed.  Accordingly, we reaffirm our
recommendation. 

DOD also provided technical comments on the draft report, which we
have incorporated as appropriate.  DOD's comments on a draft of this
report are reprinted in their entirety in appendix I. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :9

Our review focused on Milstar system effectiveness and DOD's plans to
provide continuing comparable EHF communications capabilities after
the existing system degrades.  Specifically, we evaluated the Milstar
I system's operational effectiveness in supporting DOD strategic
missions by reviewing the results of operational testing and
exercises and comparing the identified deficiencies with system
operational requirements.  We obtained explanations of these
deficiencies through discussions with tester, user, and program
representatives.  Additionally, we evaluated the Milstar II system's
potential effectiveness to support DOD tactical missions by reviewing
program schedules and comparing the status of critical development
activities with the schedules.  We obtained an explanation of delays
from program and user representatives.  Finally, we evaluated Air
Force assessments of the Milstar satellite constellation's expected
availability by reviewing the results from a computer simulation
model used to predict satellite replenishment needs.  We discussed
the interpretation of the model results with program analysts.  We
performed our work primarily at the Air Force Space and Missile
Systems Center in El Segundo, California, and the U.S.  and Air Force
Space Commands in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which included
acquiring and assessing information from acquisition and budget
documents, management reports, and internal memoranda. 

To gain an additional understanding of these matters, we reviewed
information provided by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense
for Acquisition and Technology; DOD's Office of the Director,
Operational Test and Evaluation; the Joint Staff; and the Departments
of the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army in Washington, D.C.  We also
reviewed information provided by the U.S.  Strategic Command at
Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; the Air Force's Operational Test and
Evaluation Center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; the Army's
Program Executive Office for Communications Systems at Fort Monmouth,
New Jersey; the Army's Signal Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia; the
Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego,
California; and the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom
Air Force Base, Massachusetts. 

We performed our review from August 1997 to August 1998 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :9.1

We are sending copies of this report to the Ranking Minority Member,
Subcommittee on National Security, House Committee on Appropriations;
and to the Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the House
Committee on National Security; the Senate Committee on Armed
Services; and the Subcommittee on Defense, Senate Committee on
Appropriations.  We are also sending copies to the Secretary of
Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Director, Office of
Management and Budget.  We will make copies available to others upon
request. 

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report,
please call me at (202) 512-4841.  Major contributors to this report
are listed in appendix II. 

Sincerely yours,

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix I
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
============================================================== Letter 



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
========================================================== Appendix II

NATIONAL SECURITY AND
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS DIVISION,
WASHINGTON, D.C. 

Homer H.  Thomson
James A.  Elgas
James P.  Tallon

LOS ANGELES FIELD OFFICE

Dale M.  Yuge
Samuel L.  Hinojosa

*** End of document. ***