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Managing Weapon System Software: Progress and Problems

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Citation Edit

General Accounting Office, Managing Weapon System Software: Progress and Problems (PSAD-78-112) (July 10, 1978) (unclassified digest) (full-text).

Overview Edit

The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that it spends over $3 billion annually for weapon system software, and the cost is steadily rising. However, software performance has often been unreliable because of serious technical and management problems with the way it is designed, developed, tested, and maintained.

Some of the problems noted were:

  • Primary management reports for four of the nine weapon systems did not include software information.
  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense's software management guidelines did not emphasize software testing or management of software changes after systems are deployed.
  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense had no standard procedures for orderly software testing, and practices varied among programs and even within a single service. Although major weapon systems heavily depend on software to perform critical mission functions, top managers did not fully consider software test results before making major decisions. Experience has shown that software problems have caused at least three times more weapon system unavailability than hardware problems.
  • There was no Defense-wide performance criteria for measuring ability. Independent verification of software design and coding in three systems was not planned before full system integration and testing.
  • Operational testing of software before production and deployment was not performed or completed on four systems reviewed. Funds for software testing were either decreased or eliminated because of cost increases in other program areas.
  • Software testing in three of the nine did not include interoperability testing with systems that have a technical interface in order to assess the combined operational performance of the systems.
  • Diagnostic software requirements were reduced to cut program costs when other program areas experienced a cost increase.

These problems increase weapon system life-cycle cost, extend development schedules, and degrade mission performance.

Due to the lack of visibility in the acquisition process, software management is not given the same emphasis as hardware even though software is critical to operational performance of the major weapon systems.

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