GAO: Air Force Needs to Focus Sustainment of Nuclear Command

The Air Force has made progress in improving oversight of its nuclear command, control, and communications in the short term, but the service must improve its long-term needs, the Government Accountability Office says in a new report.

The Air Force has 70 percent of the Defense Department’s total nuclear command, control, and communication systems, according to the GAO. The GAO reviewed six of those systems, which were the largest in terms of cost. The review focused on: common very low frequency receiver, family of advanced beyond line-of-sight terminals, global aircrew strategic network terminal, mission planning and analysis system modernization, Minuteman minimum essential emergency communications network upgrade, and the presidential and national voice conferencing integrator program.

The Air Force has “built up its understanding” of the short-term needs for its 62 component systems making up its NC3 Weapon System. However, the service “has not had the resources to focus on the long-term needs for NC3.”

Each of the listed programs had made progress toward its goals, however, four have compressed schedules “that could result in delays if any issues” come up during development.

In addition, two programs have draft schedules that plan to proceed into development without a key systems engineering review that “is used to ensure the requirements are feasible and affordable before development contracts are awarded.”