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National Defense: Better Software Planning Needed at the Air Force's Global Weather Central

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Citation Edit

General Accounting Office, National Defense: Better Software Planning Needed at the Air Force's Global Weather Central (AFMD-81-24; B-197338) (Feb. 24, 1981) (full-text).

Overview Edit

As part of a long-range program to improve the computer-based capabilities of the Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC), the Department of the Air Force insists that a series of sole-source procurements of general purpose computers in the present manufacturer's product line are in the Government's best interest. The Air Force believes that, by avoiding the competitive process, it can save $30 million and minimize the technical risks associated with changing vendors. It wants to continue to do so until 1985 despite repeated General Services Administration (GSA) efforts to persuade it to use competitive procurement.

The GAO found that the decisions to retain and convert software were not based on life-cycle analyses or projected costs of the individual software components such as the weather models, database manipulation system, and application programs. The GAO believes that much of the software may be obsolete or approaching obsolescence. In addition, the remaining life cycles for individual software components should have been projected, costed, and operationally and technically assessed for effectiveness into the late 1980s and documented to provide the basis for management procurement decisions.

The GAO found no life-cycle documentation for software which indicated that management considered the potential operational, technical, or financial benefits of competitive alternatives that included redesign, enhancement, replacement, or sharing of software. The GAO believes that the Air Force's present sole-source efforts may be more costly than a competitive acquisition.

Management's failure to insist on compliance with Federal policies that would have reduced the AFGWC technical dependence on the current manufacturer's product has resulted in undue pressures to remain with the manufacturer. The GAO does not think that $30 million is a valid estimate of the savings that can result from a sole-source procurement. Therefore, the GAO does not believe that the Air Force has properly justified its plans to repeatedly upgrade the AFGWC general purpose computers on a sole-source basis.

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