GAO: DOD ISR road map falls short

The Defense Department's strategic plan for developing its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) resources remains sketchy in key areas, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

Required by Congress in 2004, published in 2005 and again in early 2007, DOD's ISR road map is supposed to guide the development and integration of the department's ISR capabilities.

But the latest road map does not do an adequate job of identifying future requirements, funding priorities and measuring the progress of these critical warfighting capabilities, according to the report.

One important concern is visibility — for example, does DOD know what ISR resources are available across the department?

“Without better visibility and performance evaluation, DOD does not have all the information it needs to validate the demand for ISR assets, to ensure it is maximizing the use of existing assets, and to acquire new systems that best support warfighting needs,” the report states.

Since 2003, the U.S. Strategic Command has been responsible for planning, integrating and coordinating ISR in support of strategic and global operations. Although the command has a view into all major ISR programs supporting theater-level requirements, it does not necessarily see all the ISR assets.

"There is concern as to whether an organization exists within the Department of Defense with sufficient information across the spectrum of ISR programs with the authority to properly direct resources and avoid wasteful, uncoordinated expenditure of resources,” said Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the House Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, in an April 19 hearing which included testimony from GAO.

“While DOD has made some progress in coordinating the acquisition of some ISR systems, significant progress needs to be made as ISR programs continue to proliferate,” Abercrombie said.

According to GAO, the road map, if properly developed, would create opportunities for the different services to collaborate on the development of similar systems as a means for creating a more efficient and affordable way of providing new capabilities to the warfighter.

Abercrombie noted the following examples.

  • Less than two years ago, the Army and Navy canceled a $900 million development program for the joint Aerial Common Sensor aircraft and sensors because of an estimated doubling of cost and an estimated two-year slip. That program has now been slipped for five years, and the Navy and Army intend to each acquire their own system.
  • The Air Force believes that there is an unnecessary duplication of unmanned aerial vehicle program acquisition offices, training operations, logistics and maintenance operations, and intelligence support facilities.

Slabodkin is a freelance writer based in Maple Grove, Minn.

About the Author

Greg Slabodkin is a contributing editor to Defense Systems.

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