GAO finds that cost increases for seven key systems are beyond the legal limit

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at the cost of maintaining 16 US weapons systems, finding seven with cost increases exceeding the legal limit, each by at least 25% above their most recent estimates, according to a report released on 29 February.

These systems include Excalibur Precision Projectiles 155mm, EA-18G Growler, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS), Warfighter Information Network Tactical Increment 1 (WIN-T), Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT), and Tactical Mission Command-Maneuver Control System.

Operation and maintenance (O&S) costs, for repair and personnel, account for 70 percent of the total cost of a weapon system, according to the GAO, accounting for billions of dollars in DoD spending each year.

The critical increase in O&S costs in weapon systems programs is due to a combination of factors, each unique to program requirements and enhancements.

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For Excalibur Precision 155mm Projectiles and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornetcost increases were significantly impacted by the procurement of additional units and the introduction of advanced capabilities to meet evolving national security requirements.

The Excalibur program saw a 183 percent increase in O&S costs due to the expanded inventory and the integration of new hardware and software to improve accuracy and navigation. Similarly, the Super Hornet program experienced a 179% cost increase, driven by extending the life of the aircraft, acquiring more units and updating technologies for improved target tracking.

The EA-18G Growler and Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT) programs also experienced significant cost increases, primarily due to operational life extension and capability enhancement. The Growler program saw a 219% increase due to the procurement of additional aircraft and capability enhancements in response to its role in battlefield operations. The NMT program experienced a 365% jump in O&S costs, with life extension, capability additions and addressing obsolescence challenges being key drivers.

O&S costs of the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) and Warfighter Information Network Tactical Increment 1 (WIN-T) programs were impacted by system enhancements and cyber security measures. CROWS experienced a 335% increase due to higher volumes, extended operational life and parts maintenance cost revisions, while WIN-T costs increased 32% due to an increased number of nodes and the need to address cyber security obsolescence issues.

In addition to the 16 systems reviewed by GAO, nine other weapons systems were evaluated, but the necessary cost information was not available. Accordingly, GAO recommended that the Department of Defense (DoD) implement clarifying guidance on review submissions to military departments to ensure that they present consistent cost information, including the effects of inflation.

Among the weapons systems that were not reviewed because they lacked a baseline cost estimate, either because none were recorded at the time of acquisition or because of the age of the program, were the Air Force’s: C-5M Super Galaxy; the E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post (Nightwatch); and the F-22A Raptor.

This category also included the Army’s missiles: Air-to-Ground (AGM-114) Hellfire (Laser Hellfire). Black Hawk Utility Helicopter UH-60A/L; MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system. the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3); and the RQ-7B Shadow Tactical unmanned aerial system.

Of the 25 systems reviewed, the only naval platform for which relevant information was not available for evaluation was the T-45 Goshawk, which did not have a base cost estimate at the time of acquisition.

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