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GAO Gives DOD Mixed Report Card on EELV Acquisition

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 27-Jul-2012
Updated: 27-Jul-2012 07:09 AM

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) gave the Department of Defense (DOD) mixed grades on how well the department is responding to earlier GAO recommendations on how to improve its acquisition of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs).

DOD had been planning to buy 40 core EELVs -- Atlas V and Delta IV rockets -- to be launched over 5 years.   Both vehicles are produced and sold by the joint Lockheed Martin-Boeing United Launch Alliance (ULA).   One rationale was that a block buy of that magnitude would help stabilize the industrial base.   Other companies, notably SpaceX, objected that such a contract would preclude "new entrants" from competing for a share of the government launch market. 

GAO issued a report last year that was critical of DOD's acquisition strategy.  In particular, GAO found that DOD was relyingon  contractor data rather than independent analysis about the state of the industrial base.  GAO made seven recommendations and in the FY2012 defense authorization act, Congress directed DOD to report on how it was complying with them and for GAO to assess that information.   The new report provides GAO assessment.

Of the seven recommendations it made, GAO reports that DOD completed two, has action underway on two others that it expects DOD to complete, has action underway on another two that GAO assesses needs more work, and one where no action has been taken.  GAO noted that DOD concurred with its assessment. 

The two that are completed were for DOD to work closely with NASA to ensure it had adequate information about NASA's heavy lift launcher program to facilitate DOD's ability to negotiate EELV contract prices that maximize the government's investment, and to refrain from waiving government contracting requirements for contractor and subcontractor certified cost and pricing data.

The two that GAO expects DOD to complete are conducting an independent assessment of the health of the U.S. launch industrial base, and to reassess the length of its new block-buy contract.

The two that need more work are for DOD to ensure that mission assurance activities "are sufficient and not excessive" and to incentivize the prime contractor to implement efficiencies without affecting mission assurance, and to examine how greater interagency coordination might increase efficiencies and cost savings.

The one recommendation on which DOD has taken no action is to develop a science and technology plan for improving and evolving launch technologies.

GAO did not make any new recommendations in this report. 


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