GAO: State Department Can’t Track Maintenance Needs for Its Missile Systems

The US Department of Defense (DoD) lacks comprehensive guidance on maintaining missile defense system componentssuch as missile interceptors, sensors and communications, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO identified two fundamental issues: first, there is no agency to oversee conservation. Second, there is no approach to prioritizing efforts to address conservation challenges.

The lack of a responsible entity leads to a serious lack of visibility into the needs of the missile defense system. This suggests that procurement of the components is the only concern of the Ministry of Development.

As a result, the department neglects the lifetime maintenance of its missile defense systems, meaning it cannot monitor the systems’ needs or prevent system failures that could easily be fixed.

That’s a critical oversight needed to maintain a competitive military advantage, as “potential adversaries have acquired missiles and made significant technical advances” beyond the Defense Department’s failing systems.

Additionally, the lack of a department-wide approach to prioritizing and making conservation decisions is problematic. The GAO gives an example: “while the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Army recognize corrosion as a challenge, the Army had not constructed permanent facilities for the corrosion prevention component due to prioritization of other projects and resource constraints.

The need for responsibility

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is responsible for the acquisition and development of missile defense system components. MDA and the military services have developed conservation plans for specific items.

GAO found that the military agencies and MDA report missile defense readiness data to different decision makers using different systems.

The military agencies record unit readiness data, which is available throughout the Department of Defense and included in a semiannual report to Congress. While, the MDA records readiness data about missile defense system components in a different system, but does not share this information with the Department of Defense unless requested.

Several Defense Department officials told GAO that their offices would like MDA to share its data more easily, which would enhance the department’s strategic understanding of missile defense readiness.

Loss of money and parts

The loss of money and parts is not a new problem faced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The GAO findings follow one after another GAO report criticizing lack of accountability for F-35 Lightning II jet componentsleading to loss of millions of dollars.

An accountable system where the Ministry of Defense can manage its own interests is a priority. It ensures that the department can be certain of its military readiness at all times, as opposed to cashing in on what it has for weapons systems when it only needs to monitor the integrity of its existing systems.

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