> our title:

UCLASS: US Navy Must Match Requirements and Funding

> original title:

Unmanned Carrier-Based Aircraft System: Navy Needs to Demonstrate Match between Its Requirements and Available Resources

(Source: US Government Accountability Office; issued May 4, 2015)

The Navy expects to have invested at least $3 billion through fiscal year 2020 in the development of the UCLASS system, which includes air system, aircraft carrier, and control system and connectivity segments. It is expected to enhance the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, and strike capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet.

In August 2013, the Navy awarded contracts worth $15 million each to four competing contractors to develop and deliver preliminary designs for the air system, which were assessed by the Navy in May 2014.

The next anticipated steps for the program will be to solicit proposals and award the contract for air system development.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 included a provision that GAO review the status of the UCLASS acquisition program annually. This report assesses (1) the current status of the program, and (2) the extent to which the Navy has the knowledge about resources it needs to develop the UCLASS system. GAO applied best practice standards, analyzed program documentation, and interviewed Department of Defense (DOD) and contractor officials.

What GAO Found:

Since our last review in September 2013, the intended mission and required capabilities of the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system have come into question.

Ongoing debate about whether the primary role of the UCLASS system should be mainly surveillance with limited strike or mainly strike with limited surveillance has delayed the program, as shown in the figure. Requirements emphasizing a strike role with limited surveillance could be more demanding and costly.

The knowledge the Navy has obtained about the resources needed to develop the UCLASS system may no longer be applicable depending on what requirements are finally chosen. GAO’s prior best practices work has found that before initiating system development, a program should present an executable business case that demonstrates that it has a high level of knowledge and a match between requirements and available resources.

If the final UCLASS requirements emphasize a strike role with limited surveillance, the Navy will likely need to revisit its understanding of available resources in the areas of design knowledge, funding, and technologies before awarding an air system development contract.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that before committing significant resources the Navy should ensure that it has an executable business case for UCLASS development that matches available resources to required capabilities. On behalf of DOD, the Navy generally agreed with the recommendation.

Click here for the full report (19 PDF pages) on the GAO website.