GAO suggests cuts in DOD '99 IT budget

The General Accounting Office this month sent a letter to Congress recommending a reduction of $181 million in the Defense Department's fiscal 1999 funding request for information technology.

According to GAO, "these reductions...can be made because schedules have slipped, requirements have changed, and issues affecting program funding have emerged since the budget request was developed."

Louis J. Rodrigues, director of Defense acquisitions issues at GAO, said GAO issues letters every year at the request of the House and Senate appropriations committees to assist them in identifying potential savings when the DOD appropriations bill goes to conference.

However, Paul Strassmann, chief executive officer of Software Testing Assurance Corp. and the former director of Defense information, said, "Accountants should not make military policy."

However, "auditors are entirely within their province to point out malfeasance and mismanagement," he said.

The Air Force took the biggest hit, with GAO recommending cutting $87.3 million from Air Force IT projects. GAO suggested that most of the cuts could come from the Air Force's request for $77.4 million for advanced procurement of the Global Positioning System, which Congress should deny "because funding requested for the purchase of long lead items for 15 satellites is not needed."

GAO also identified $9.9 million in savings from Air Force electronic warfare development.

According to GAO, the funds were requested for integrated defensive electronic countermeasures, radio frequency countermeasures and a fiber-optic towed decoy system for the F-15 fighter aircraft. However, because of delays and cost increases, the Air Force wants to delay and reschedule integration efforts, according to GAO.

However, Air Force officials told GAO that the funds could be realigned to other electronic warfare development efforts and may be required in future years by the F-15 program, according to the report.

GAO recommended $60 million in cuts for Navy programs, including the SQQ-89 Surface Antisubmarine Warfare Combat System, the Cooperative Engagement program and the Submarine Combat System. According to the GAO letter, the SQQ-89 will require additional processors, displays and operators. "Until it proves operationally effective, it seems premature to seek procurement funds for this system," GAO concluded.

However, Navy officials told GAO that a reduction in the budget request would delay the fielding of an effective torpedo defense system for all Navy destroyers and would force the Navy to redesign the entire destroyer upgrade program, according to the GAO letter.

According to GAO, the Navy's Cooperative Engagement Capability program, which will provide an integrated common picture of the anti-air-warfare situation to Naval commanders, has experienced interoperability and technical problems as well as schedule delays. As a result, GAO recommended that the Navy cancel the fiscal 1999 request and use funds left over from the fiscal 1998 budget to continue with a limited production contract until these problems can be fixed.

The letter said DOD officials claim that elimination of the funding would jeopardize the Navy's ability to purchase additional systems and to address the systems' interoperability problems.

Army programs that may fall prey to GAO recommendations should Congress act on its recommendations include the Force XXI Warfighting Rapid Acquisition Program and the Army Data Distribution System.

According to GAO, because the Army does not plan to use $27.7 million remaining from fiscal year 1998 appropriations on new initiatives, "these funds can be used to offset the fiscal 1999 budget request."

GAO also said the Army "overstated" program requirements for the Army Data Distribution System, or the Near Term Digital Radio being developed for the first Digitized Division as a gap filler until DOD can field the Joint Tactical Radio. However, because DOD intends to reduce the number of service-specific radios in use, "it appears that the Army's plan to develop a service-unique interim radio for the digital battlefield is in conflict with DOD's strategy," GAO concluded.

According to the letter, "terminating this developmental effort would further DOD's goal of minimizing the proliferation of service-unique radio programs and eliminate the need" for $10.9 million in the fiscal 1999 request.

GAO said Army program officials and DOD said the interim solution would provide insights into new technologies.


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