DOD needs to do a better job of acquiring technical data rights to weapon systems, GAO says

WASHINGTON, 14 June 2011. Leaders of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) need to give better guidance to military program managers on how and when to acquire technology data rights from military contractors so the DOD can maintain and upgrade aircraft, ships, vehicles, electronics, and other systems that depend on making the most of the latest technology, say auditors at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, the investigative arm of Congress.

Jun 14th, 2011
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WASHINGTON, 14 June 2011. Leaders of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) need to give better guidance to military program managers on how and when to acquire technology data rights from military contractors so the DOD can maintain and upgrade aircraft, ships, vehicles, electronics, and other systems that depend on making the most of the latest technology, say auditors at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, the investigative arm of Congress.DOD should issue instructions to help program managers determine and acquire technical data and data rights necessary to maintain military weapon systems efficiently and cost-effectively over their life cycles, GAO analysts say.The GAO released its findings Friday in a report entitled DOD Should Clarify Requirements for Assessing and Documenting Technical-Data Needs. Requesting the report were U.S. Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-Va., who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who is the subcommittee's ranking member.

Since many DOD weapon systems remain in service for decades, military leaders need to do a better job on capturing the technical data rights they need to keep these weapons in the field and functioning at top efficiency, GAO auditors say. Acquiring data rights in major weapons procurements can add as much as $1 billion to the Pentagon's cost, yet the decision on whether to acquire these data rights can have far-reaching implications for DOD's ability to sustain and procure parts and services competitively for those systems, GAO says.

Access to technical data can help DOD officials control costs, maintain flexibility in acquisition and sustainment, as well as maintain and operate systems. Nevertheless, GAO auditors found that existing laws do not adequately address how program managers should assess their technical-data needs.

DOD officials recently added a requirement for program managers to conduct a business-case analysis for the long-term technical-data needs of weapon systems, yet the Pentagon has not issued policy or other internal controls that describe how to conduct this analysis, GAO auditors found.

Without instructions that describe how to conduct the business-case analysis, senior acquisition decision makers may not receive the information they need to decide whether to approve programs at major milestones in the acquisition process.

To rectify this problem, GAO recommends that DOD update policies to clarify its technical-data documentation requirements, and tell program managers which elements to include and the information to report for technical-data business-case analyses.

GAO auditors say that DOD leaders agree with their recommendations. For more information contact the GAO online at www.gao.gov.

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