Index

Defense Acquisitions: Decisions on the Joint Strike Fighter Will Be
Critical for Acquisition Reform (Testimony, 05/10/2000,
GAO/T-NSIAD-00-173).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed Department of Defense
(DOD) Joint Strike Fighter acquisition program, focusing on the: (1)
best commercial practices for developing new products; (2) reasons why
DOD does not follow these practices; and (3) opportunity that Joint
Strike Fighter represents to strengthen--or weaken--the effect of best
practices and acquisition reform on major weapons.

GAO noted that: (1) leading commercial firms have adopted a
knowledge-based approach to developing new products, underwritten by
incentives that encourage realism, candor, and meeting product
expectations; (2) making sure that new technology is mature--that is,
demonstrating that it works--before a product development starts is the
foundation for this approach; (3) leading commercial firms discipline
the product development phase by adhering to: (a) time limits for
completing development; and (b) high standards for demonstrating design
and production knowledge; (4) these practices have put commercial
managers in an excellent position to succeed in developing better
products in less time and producing them within estimated costs; (5) DOD
programs, with some exceptions, proceed with lower levels of knowledge
about key factors of product development and allow technology
development to take place during product development; (6) DOD's
variances from best practices stem from strong incentives for starting
programs too early, overpromising performance capabilities, and
understating expected costs, schedules, and technical risks; (7) while
these incentives evolved over time to help build support for programs,
they put program managers in a very difficult position to deliver better
weapons on time and within budget; (8) DOD accepts the need to get
better outcomes from its weapon system programs and accepts best
commercial practices as a way to get those outcomes; (9) in fact, it is
incorporating such practices in a major revision of its acquisition
policy; (10) DOD has designated the Joint Strike Fighter as a flagship
program for acquisition reform; (11) by best practices standards, none
of the fighter's critical technology areas identified by the program
office are expected to be at readiness levels considered an acceptable
risk for entry into engineering and manufacturing development; (12)
delaying this phase of the program until these technologies are mature
would improve the chances that the Joint Strike Fighter will be fielded
as planned; (13) however, despite not having the requisite knowledge for
the eight technologies, DOD has deemed the risks manageable and proposes
to proceed with the program as planned; (14) such a decision reinforces
traditional incentives and increases the likelihood for future cost,
schedule, and performance problems; and (15) DOD's plans to move the
Joint Strike Fighter into engineering and manufacturing development with
immature technology illustrates a lack of commitment to following best
commercial practices as part of its acquisition reform efforts.

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

 REPORTNUM:  T-NSIAD-00-173
     TITLE:  Defense Acquisitions: Decisions on the Joint Strike
	     Fighter Will Be Critical for Acquisition Reform
      DATE:  05/10/2000
   SUBJECT:  Defense procurement
	     Defense capabilities
	     Fighter aircraft
	     Weapons systems
	     Weapons research and development
	     Private sector practices
	     Defense cost control
	     Procurement planning
	     Concurrency
IDENTIFIER:  Joint Strike Fighter

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   * For Release on Delivery
     Expected at 10:00 a.m.

Wednesday,

May 10, 2000

GAO/T-NSIAD-00-173

Defense Acquisitions

Decisions on the Joint Strike Fighter Will Be Critical for Acquisition
Reform

        Statement of Louis J. Rodrigues, Director

Defense Acquisitions Issues

National Security and International Affairs Division

Testimony

Before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and
International Relations, Committee on Government Reform, House of
Representatives

United States General Accounting Office

GAO

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the application of best commercial
practices to Department of Defense (DOD) weapon acquisitions in general and
to the Joint Strike Fighter in particular.

After having done hundreds of reviews of major weapon acquisitions over the
last 20 years, we have seen many of the same problems recur-cost increases,
schedule delays, and performance problems. Over the last 4 years, we have
undertaken a body of work to examine weapon acquisition issues from a
different, more cross-cutting perspective. Specifically, we have examined
the best product development practices of leading commercial firms.
Collectively, our reviews have included the practices of over 20 leading
commercial firms that represent a variety of industries, including
electronics, satellite communications, automotive, medical, and aircraft.
Leading commercial firms are getting the kind of results that DOD seeks:
more sophisticated products developed in less time and cost than their
predecessors. Our work shows that DOD can learn valuable lessons from the
commercial sector to get better and more predictable outcomes from weapon
system development programs. A listing of the reports we have issued on best
practices that can be applied to weapon acquisitions is included in the
appendix.

DOD has taken steps to reflect best commercial practices in its acquisition
policies. However, the real test of these policies is in how they influence
individual decisions, such as the upcoming engineering and manufacturing
development decision on the Joint Strike Fighter program. This program is to
produce three fighter variants to meet multiservice requirements:
conventional flight for the Air Force, short take-off and landing for the
Marine Corps, and carrier operations for the Navy. The program will also
provide aircraft to the British royal Navy and Air Force. As currently
planned, the program will cost about $200 billion to develop and procure
over 3,000 aircraft and related support equipment.

My testimony focuses on the best commercial practices for developing new
products, the reasons why DOD does not follow these practices, and the
opportunity that Joint Strike Fighter represents to strengthen-or weaken-the
effect of best practices and acquisition reform on major weapons.

Results in Brief

DOD programs, with some exceptions, proceed with lower levels of knowledge
about key factors of product development and allow technology development to
take place during product development. DOD's variances from best practices
stem from strong incentives for starting programs too early; overpromising
performance capabilities; and understating expected costs, schedules, and
technical risks. While these incentives evolved over time to help build
support for programs, they put program managers in a very difficult position
to deliver better weapons on time and within budget. Moreover, there is
little risk that the DOD customer will be dismayed by a program not being
delivered as promised. DOD accepts the need to get better outcomes from its
weapon system programs and accepts best commercial practices as a way to get
those outcomes. In fact, it is currently incorporating such practices in a
major revision of its acquisition policy. However, new policies will not
produce better program outcomes unless they influence the decisions made on
individual weapon systems.

DOD has designated the Joint Strike Fighter as a flagship program for
acquisition reform. Funding requests are now before the Congress to support
the Joint Strike Fighter's April 2001 entry into engineering and
manufacturing development. By best practices standards, none of the
fighter's critical technology areas identified by the program office are
expected to be at readiness levels considered an acceptable risk for entry
into engineering and manufacturing development. Delaying this phase of the
program until these technologies are mature would improve the chances that
the Joint Strike Fighter will be fielded as planned. However, despite not
having the requisite knowledge for the eight technologies, DOD has deemed
the risks manageable and proposes to proceed with the program as planned.
Such a decision reinforces traditional incentives and increases the
likelihood for future cost, schedule, and performance problems. DOD's plans
to move the Joint Strike Fighter into engineering and manufacturing
development with immature technology illustrates a lack of commitment to
following best commercial practices as part of its acquisition reform
efforts.

A Best Practices Model for Acquisition

The characteristics of best commercial practices suggest a process for
developing new capabilities-whether they are commercial or defense
products-that is based on knowledge. It is a process in which technology
development and product development are treated differently and managed
separately. The process of developing technology culminates in discovery and
must, by its nature, allow room for unexpected results and delays. The
process of developing a product culminates in delivery, and therefore, gives
great weight to design and production. Discipline is inherent because
criteria exist, tools are used, and a program does not go forward unless a
strong business case on which the program was originally justified continues
to hold true.

We have learned that a knowledge-based process is essential to getting
better cost, schedule, and performance outcomes. This means that decision
makers must have virtual certainty about critical facets of the product
under development when needed. Such knowledge is the inverse of risk.
Commercial and military programs do not all follow the same processes in
their development cycles. However, at some point, full knowledge is attained
about a completed product, regardless of the development approach taken.
This knowledge can be measured at three key junctures that we refer to as
knowledge points:

   * Knowledge point 1: when a match is made between the customer's
     requirements and the available technology;
   * Knowledge point 2: when the product's design is determined to be
     capable of meeting performance requirements; and
   * Knowledge point 3: when the product is determined to be producible
     within cost, schedule, and quality targets.

We have identified metrics that indicate these knowledge levels and can thus
help forecast outcomes as a development program progresses. A best practices
model for technology development and product development is depicted in
figure 1.

Figure 1: Best Practices for Developing Technology and Products

Commercial firms gain more knowledge about a product's technology, design,
and producibility much earlier than DOD acquisition programs we reviewed.
Two features of leading commercial products stand out for making a
manageable product development. First, there is a clear break between
technology development and product development. The launch of a new product
development in commercial ventures is a clearly defined undertaking and
before beginning, firms insist on having the technology in hand that is
needed to meet customer requirements. Second, leading firms limit the length
of time it takes to develop the product. This limit is key to getting the
product to market and focuses attention on the design and production
knowledge points. It also provides discipline to the technology development
process to ensure product development will not be launched until the
technology match is made.

The leading commercial firms we have visited consciously limited their
product developments from 18 months to just over 4 years. They understand
that this keeps product development within a time frame that can keep people
focused on delivering a product. In fact, one commercial executive observed
that it is unreasonable to expect people to focus on a goal like production
start that is more than 4 years away. The limited time frames provide strong
incentives for a commercial manager to keep immature technologies out of the
product design. In fact, these time frames give product managers clout in
fostering cost and performance trade-offs before the program begins,
ultimately limiting a product's requirements to what can be achieved with
demonstrated technologies within the specified time period. To live within
these time constraints and keep innovation alive, commercial firms have
adopted an evolutionary approach; they save requirements that cannot be met
with proven technologies for the next iteration of the product. Commercial
firms also found that limiting product development time frames

   * makes it easier to hold people accountable for meeting promised cost,
     schedule, and performance targets;
   * enables a production-oriented focus throughout product development,
     providing incentives for identifying risks early;
   * makes product development costs and schedule more predictable; and
   * allows firms to get into production and, therefore, to the point of
     sale quicker.

Once a product development is under way, the firms demand-and
receive-specific knowledge about the design and producibility of the product
before production begins. The process of discovery-the accumulation of
knowledge and elimination of unknowns-is completed well ahead of production.
There is a synergy in this process, as the attainment of each successive
knowledge point builds on the preceding one.

In contrast, DOD programs are started earlier and allow technology
development to continue into product development and even into production.
Consequently, the programs proceed with much less knowledge available-and
thus more risk-about required technologies, design capability, and
producibility. This approach to technology and product development is shown
in figure 2.

Figure 2: Levels of Knowledge Attained in DOD Weapon System Developments

Proceeding with lower levels of knowledge available means that during
product development, maturity of technology, the design, and production
methods must all be pursued at the same time. The rippling effect of
discovering and overcoming problems in product development explains much of
the turbulence in DOD program outcomes. Metrics, such as technology
readiness levels and percent of engineering drawings complete, can be used
to predict these consequences. Product development times, long to begin
with, stretch even further in reaction to problems. We calculate that they
can take 3 to 10 times as long as commercial products.

Knowledge Point 1: Requirements and Technology Are Matched

Without going into the details of each level, a level four equates to a
laboratory demonstration of a technology that is still not in a usable form.
Imagine an advanced radio technology that can be demonstrated with
components that take up a table top. When initial hand-built versions of all
of the radio's basic elements are hand-wired and tested together in a
laboratory, the radio reaches a readiness level of five. A technology
readiness level of seven is the demonstration of a technology that
approximates its final form and occurs in an environment outside the
laboratory. The same radio at level seven would be installed and
demonstrated in a platform, such as a fighter aircraft.

The lower the level of the technology at the time it is included in a
product development program, the higher the risk that it will cause problems
in the product development. According to the Air Force Research Laboratory,
level seven enables a technology to be included on a product development
with acceptable risk. When we asked leading commercial firms to apply these
standards to their own methods for assessing technology maturity, we found
that most insisted on even higher levels of readiness before they allowed a
new technology into product development. When we examined weapon systems
that experienced cost and schedule problems, we found that they started with
key technologies at levels three and four. By the time the programs reached
a point DOD considers analogous to beginning product development, key
technologies were still at level five or lower. Conversely, DOD programs for
which key technologies were at significantly higher levels of maturity at
the start, had not experienced such problems.

Knowledge Point 2: The Design Will Perform as Required

Both DOD and commercial companies consider the design to be essentially
complete when about 90 percent of the engineering drawings are completed.
Officials from commercial companies such as Boeing and Hughes told us that
they typically had over 90 percent of these drawings available for the
critical design review. The DOD programs we reviewed had less than 60
percent-one had less than one-third-of the drawings done at the time their
critical design reviews were held. Thus, these programs had significantly
less knowledge about their designs. The programs did not get or were not
expected to get to the 90-percent level of completion on the drawings until
late in development or in production. Nonetheless, at the time of the
critical design reviews, the risks of proceeding with the rest of
development on these programs as planned were deemed acceptable. The
programs however encountered significant design problems in testing that
occurred after the critical design review.

Knowledge Point 3: Production Units Will Meet Cost, Quality, and Schedule
Objectives

DOD programs did not have nearly this level of knowledge at production. One
weapon system program that had been in production for nearly 9 years at the
time of our 1998 review still had less than 13 percent of its key
manufacturing processes in control. Another program had 40 percent of its
key manufacturing processes in control 2 years before production was
scheduled to begin but was not scheduled to have all key processes in
control until 4 years into production. Both programs experienced basic
producibility problems that were not discovered until late in development or
early in production. These risks went unrecognized even though DOD had
established criteria for determining whether risks were acceptable and
whether enough knowledge had been gained to enter the next development
phase.

Changes in DOD Environment Needed to Adopt Best Practices

Incentives in the Commercial Environment

Production is a dominant concern throughout the product development process
and forces discipline and trade-offs in the design process. This environment
encourages realistic assessments of risks and costs; doing otherwise would
threaten the business case and invite failure. For the same reasons, the
environment places a high value on knowledge for making decisions. Program
managers have good reasons to identify risks early, be intolerant of
unknowns, and not rely on testing late in the process as the main vehicle
for discovering the performance characteristics of the product. By
protecting the business case as the key to success, program managers in
leading commercial firms are conservative in their estimates and aggressive
in risk reduction. Ultimately, preserving the business case strengthens the
ability of managers to say "no" to pressures to accept high risks or
unknowns. Practices such as maturing technologies to high readiness levels
before inclusion in a program, having 90 percent of engineering drawings
done by the critical design review, and achieving statistical process
control before production are adopted because they help ensure success.

Incentives in the DOD Environment

Even though less information about a new product development is available at
the time DOD programs are launched, the competition for funding forces
detailed projections to be made from that information. A product development
cannot be launched unless the program's development and production cost, as
well as timing, falls within available funding. Because DOD relies largely
on forecasts of cost, schedule, and performance that are comparatively soft
at the time, success in competing for funding encourages managers to squeeze
cost and schedule estimates into profiles of available funding. Additional
requirements, such as high reliability and maintainability, serve to make
the fit even tighter. As competition for funding will continue throughout
the program's development, success is measured in terms of ability to secure
the next installment.

The risks associated with developing new technologies together with the
product-within tight estimates-are deemed acceptable. Production realities,
critical to matching technological capabilities with customer requirements
on commercial programs, are too far away from the DOD launch decision to
have the same curbing effect on technology decisions. The environment for
managing weapon system programs is particularly difficult for managing
technology development. The ups and downs and resource changes associated
with the technology discovery process do not mesh well with a program's need
to meet cost, schedule, and performance goals. Problems with developing
technologies, which are to be expected, can actually threaten the support
for a program if they become known.

These pressures and incentives explain why the behavior of weapon system
managers differs from managers of commercial product developments. Problems
or indications that the estimates are being breached do not help sustain
funding support for the program in later years, and thus their admission is
implicitly discouraged. An optimistic cost estimate makes it easier to
launch a product development and sustain annual approval; admission that
costs are likely to be higher could invite failure. Rewards for discovering
and recognizing potential problems early in a DOD product development are
few. Less available knowledge makes it harder for program managers to say
"no." In contrast with leading commercial firms, not having attained
knowledge-on the full performance of a key technology or the true risks
facing manufacture, for example,-can be perceived as better than knowing
that problems exist. For these reasons, the practices associated with
managing to knowledge standards-such as for technology, design, and
production maturity-are not readily adopted in DOD.

These observations about the differences between the commercial and DOD
environments should not be interpreted to mean that commercial managers are
somehow more skilled or knowledgeable than their DOD counterparts. DOD
program managers act in response to the pressures they face. All of the
numerous participants in the acquisition process play a part in creating
these pressures. Commercial program managers are put in a better position to
succeed; they have to worry only about product design and production within
the cost, schedule, and performance demands of the business case.

Charting a Course for Adopting Best Practices to Get Better Outcomes

Second, once a program is under way, the participants in the acquisition
process must make it acceptable for managers to identify unknowns as high
risks so that they can be aggressively worked on earlier in development. If
the Congress and DOD weighed program launch decisions and subsequent
progress on weapon systems by applying a common set of knowledge standards,
like those gleaned from leading commercial firms, they could create a better
business case for starting a weapon system program. By developing technology
separately to high readiness levels before including it in a program and by
adhering to standards such as knowledge points in product development, DOD
program managers can be put in a better position to succeed in the timely
design and production of weapon systems. The shorter cycle times associated
with these practices could make it possible to better align the tenures of
program managers with the product development phase, making them more
accountable for program outcomes.

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and
Logistics) supports shorter weapon system development times and more
aggressive pursuit of technology outside of programs. It also supports the
use of best commercial practices, such as taking an evolutionary approach to
developing new products. DOD is capturing these and other practices in a
substantial revision of the regulations that guide the management of weapon
system programs. These regulations are currently in draft form.

The real test of the participants' resolve to get better outcomes by
applying best practices will be the decisions made on individual weapon
systems, such as for launch and funding. These decisions define what success
means in DOD and what practices contribute to success. Decisions made by DOD
or the Congress to advance or fund programs that do not have enough
knowledge to meet agreed-upon standards signal to managers that not having
the necessary level of knowledge is acceptable. On the other hand,
participants should support decisions to not start new programs that need
technology advances to meet unforgiving requirements or to recognize early
that a change in a program is necessary to attain desired knowledge levels.

The Decision to Move the Joint Strike Fighter Into Engineering and
Manufacturing Development: A Case in Point

The best practice for such a decision is to have a match between mature
technologies and weapon requirements. It represents the first knowledge
point. The Joint Strike Fighter does not meet this standard; several
technologies that are critical to meeting requirements will not be
sufficiently mature. Consequently, the Joint Strike Fighter will not enter
the engineering and manufacturing development phase with low technical risk.
However, DOD would like to go forward with the program anyway. Doing so
would have two major consequences. First, it would put the program on a path
that has yielded cost growth and schedule slippage on many previous
programs. Second, as Joint Strike Fighter is the largest acquisition in the
foreseeable future, it will send signals to other programs that best
practices and acquisition reform need not be heeded when it comes to major
weapon systems.

Joint Strike Fighter Requirements Depend on Immature Technologies

In our recently issued report, we evaluated the maturity of key technologies
on the Joint Strike Fighter program. At our request, the program office
identified eight technology areas that are considered critical to meeting
the fighter's cost, schedule, and performance objectives. In conjunction
with the program office and the two competing contractors, we determined the
readiness levels of these technologies needed to meet Joint Strike Fighter
performance requirements at three points in time: when the Joint Strike
Fighter program was started in 1996, when we conducted our review in
December 1999, and when the program is scheduled to enter engineering and
manufacturing development. Those assessments showed that when the Joint
Strike Fighter program was started, most of the critical technologies were
well below the readiness levels considered acceptable risk to begin a
program. The technology readiness levels of the eight critical Joint Strike
Fighter technology areas are shown in figure 3.

Figure 3: Joint Strike Fighter Critical Technology Readiness Levels at
Program Start and as Projected for Entry into Engineering and Manufacturing
Development

As figure 3 shows, all of the critical technology areas are expected to be
at readiness levels lower than the level seven considered acceptable risk
for entry into engineering and manufacturing development. Six of the
technologies will still be below the readiness level that is considered
acceptable risk for program start, which occurred over 3 years ago for the
Joint Strike Fighter program. Many of these will only be demonstrated in
laboratories or in ground tests when the engineering and manufacturing
development phase starts. They have a considerable amount of development
remaining before they are considered mature. Moreover, as a result of cost
growth and schedule concerns, in May 1999, DOD delayed some technology
demonstrations until after the engineering and manufacturing development
phase begins.

Should any of these technologies be delayed or, worse, not available for
incorporation into the final Joint Strike Fighter design, the impact on the
program would be dramatic. For example, if one of the above critical
technologies needed to be replaced with its planned backup, DOD could expect
an increase of several billion dollars in production and operation and
support costs. The backup technology would also significantly increase
aircraft weight, which can negatively impact aircraft performance. This
technology is expected to be at unacceptable readiness levels at the
beginning of the engineering and manufacturing development phase, which
indicates that substantial technology development must still occur during
this phase.

As noted above, at the policy level, DOD officials have agreed that
technology development should be kept separate from product development and
that technology readiness levels are a valid way to assess technology
maturity. However, in its response to our report on the Joint Strike
Fighter-an individual program decision-DOD balked at the use of technology
readiness levels and their implications for keeping technology development
out of the Joint Strike Fighter's engineering and manufacturing development
phase. One of the reasons DOD cited for its unwillingness to accept the
technology readiness levels assessed for the eight Joint Strike Fighter
technologies was that the levels were based on integration in the Joint
Strike Fighter aircraft-too high a standard. On the contrary, the technology
readiness levels assessed by the program office and the contractors were
based on a clear understanding that a level seven could be reached by
demonstrating a technology in a relevant environment. It was further made
clear that a relevant environment would include demonstrating a technology
in an existing aircraft like an F-16, not a Joint Strike Fighter.

A second reason DOD disagreed with the readiness levels assessed for the
eight technologies was that its own risk mitigation plans and judgment were
more meaningful and that they showed the technology risk to be acceptable.
Risk mitigation plans and judgment are necessary to managing any major
development effort like the Joint Strike Fighter. However, without an
underpinning such as technology readiness levels that allows transparency
into program decisions, these methods allow significant technical unknowns
to be judged acceptable risks because a plan exists for resolving the
unknowns in the future. Experience on previous programs has shown that such
methods have rarely assessed technical unknowns as a high or unacceptable
risk; consequently, they failed to guide programs to meet promised outcomes.
Technology readiness levels are based on actual demonstrations of how well
technologies actually perform. Their strength lies in the fact that they
characterize knowledge that exists rather than plans to gain knowledge in
the future; they are thus less susceptible to optimism. A clear picture of
knowledge-or its absence-may be more likely to prompt action than a
favorable risk assessment.

An 8-Year Phase That Spans Technology Development to Production Represents a
Herculean Management Undertaking

Traditionally, a weapon's final performance requirements are developed early
in a program, or in many cases before the program begins. In the case of
Joint Strike Fighter program, requirements were finalized much later in the
acquisition cycle. Program officials stated that this provided the program
flexibility to conduct cost and performance trade-offs before requirement
and design decisions became final. While this approach is consistent with
best practices, it has not adequately taken into account the readiness of
the critical technologies. Many of the trade-offs that were made involved
decisions to bring technologies that were not yet demonstrated into the
engineering and manufacturing phase of the program. Thus, the program does
not have a baseline design based on demonstrated technologies that could be
developed in cycle times commensurate with best practices.

As the Joint Strike Fighter program approaches the engineering and
manufacturing development decision point, it is not in a good position to
succeed, if success means delivering the aircraft on time and within budget.
The design requires significant technological invention in order to satisfy
all the user's requirements. According to Joint Strike Fighter officials, an
objective of the engineering and manufacturing development phase is bringing
the technologies up to maturity levels that will allow them to be
incorporated onto a Joint Strike Fighter. Therefore, at a time when the
program should be focused on designing and building the aircraft, the Joint
Strike Fighter program will have to put significant effort and resources
into demonstrating that key technologies are ready for inclusion onto the
product. As a result, the program has planned almost 8 years for its
engineering and manufacturing development phase. The length and scope of the
effort operate against the ability to estimate cost and completion
schedules.

Commercial firms have established practices to limit product development
cycle times, thereby increasing the possibility that program managers will
remain on programs until they are complete. Holding one program manager
accountable for the content of a product at the time the launch decision is
made encourages that person to raise issues and problems early and not
overpromise the capabilities of a new product by relying on immature
technologies. This puts the manager in a good position to deliver a high
quality product, on time, and on budget.

Since the next phase of the Joint Strike Fighter program is estimated to
last about 8 years, program managers currently involved in key decisions
about the development plan will likely not be responsible for its
implementation. It has already had three program managers since its
beginning about 3  years ago. As a result, conditions to be accepted at
engineering and manufacturing development, such as the acceptance of low
technology readiness levels, will more than likely become the responsibility
of another program manager.

Conclusion

In our report, we recommend that the Joint Strike Fighter program continue
in its current program definition and risk reduction phase, delaying the
decision to move into engineering and manufacturing until technologies are
demonstrated to acceptable levels. Taking the additional time to mature the
technologies will then allow the program manager to focus on design and
manufacturing risks during engineering and manufacturing development. It
also increases the possibility of completing product development in a more
timely and predictable manner. Such a delay does not necessarily lengthen
the total product development cycle. In fact, the knowledge gained from time
spent developing technologies in the beginning can often shorten the time it
takes to get the product to market.

Similarly, a delay should not be misinterpreted as a lessening of support
for the Joint Strike Fighter program. Rather, it would demonstrate
decisionmakers' willingness to make the up-front investment necessary to
mature key technologies before committing the Joint Strike Fighter team to
deliver a product. Such a commitment is more likely to put the program on a
better footing to succeed than placing the burden on the engineering and
manufacturing development phase.

Contacts and Acknowledgments

Related GAOProducts

Defense Acquisition: Employing Best Practices Can Shape Better Weapon System
Decisions (GAO/T-NSIAD-00-137, Apr. 26, 2000).

Best Practices: DOD Training Can Do More to Help Weapon System Program
Implement Best Practices (GAO/NSIAD-99-206, Aug. 16, 1999).

Best Practices: Better Management of Technology Development Can Improve
Weapon System Outcomes (GAO/NSIAD-99-162, July 30, 1999).

Defense Acquisitions: Best Commercial Practices Can Improve Program Outcomes
(GAO/T-NSIAD-99-116, Mar. 17, 1999).

Defense Acquisition: Improved Program Outcomes Are Possible
(GAO/T-NSIAD-98-123, Mar. 17, 1998).

Best Practices: DOD Can Help Suppliers Contribute More to Weapon System
Programs (GAO/NSIAD-98-87, Mar. 17, 1998).

Best Practices: Successful Application to Weapon Acquisition Requires
Changes in DOD's Environment (GAO/NSIAD-98-56, Feb. 24, 1998).

Major Acquisitions: Significant Changes Underway in DOD's Earned Value
Management Process (GAO/NSIAD-97-108, May 5, 1997).

Best Practices: Commercial Quality Assurance Practices Offer Improvements
for DOD (GAO/NSIAD-96-162, Aug. 26, 1996).

(707509)

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