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Acting on a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to implement proposed DOD Instruction 5000.5X,a plan to curtail high costs resulting from support costs in the field. The proposed instruction would limit the number of architectures used for computer hardware and software design and development and would require ownership of standard architectures for military-embedded computers.
Evaluation of the proposed instruction raised some serious issues that challenged its validity in the time frame of the 1980s. Some of the more salient points for consideration were that: (1) aggressive pursuit of a standard high-order language could alleviate the software proliferation problem; (2) recent advances in computer technology have reduced the need for extensive support; (3) improved competition using militarized versions of commercial computers will open up competition to many firms that would not bid on specifications with DOD-owned architectures; (4) DOD ownership of architectures would seriously inhibit competition and therefore DOD would run the risk of getting locked into obsolete architectures; (5) architecture standardization would inhibit the efficient utilization of the new DOD programming language Ada and it will not be able to fully capitalize on the anticipated software cost savings Ada was designed to yield.
GAO concluded that DOD could accomplish its objectives more effectively through exploitation of advances made with high-order language standardization and related hardware technology. Implementation of Instruction 5000.5X would preclude the DOD ability to make use of current and anticipated advances in software and related hardware technology.