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munitions, vital attributes based on experiences in the Gulf War. The inventory of precision air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons carried by these aircraft is also being significantly expanded and improved.

Additionally, DOD has more than tripled its inventory of long-range missiles to attack ground targets and has improved the range and accuracy of many of them. Funds are also being spent to advance U.S. forces' ability to identify targets and communicate information quickly to combatant units. These advances are expected to further enhance the capabilities of current forces. Figure 1 highlights several significant advances in U.S. air power capabilities since fiscal year 1991.

Figure 1: Increases in Key U.S. Combat Air Power Capabilities Since the End of Fiscal Year 1991

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500

1,000

1,500

2,000

2,500

3,000

Note: Long-range missiles include the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Army Tactical Missile
System. Night-fighting aircraft include new and existing aircraft equipped with infrared detection
devices or with cockpits that permit use of night-vision goggles. The precision-guided munition
(PGM)-capable aircraft include new or existing aircraft equipped to autonomously employ PGMS
using laser designators.

Potential Adversaries'
Capabilities Are Likely to
Remain Limited

Although potential adversaries possess capabilities that threaten U.S. air
power missions, the severity of these threats appears to be limited.
Potential adversaries' air defense capabilities cannot currently prevent
U.S. air power from achieving military objectives. Their conventional
offensive air power capabilities are judged to be limited until at least early
in the next century. Projections are that the countries in question are likely
to improve their defensive and offensive capabilities only marginally over
at least the next 10 years.

Because most potential adversaries lack the ability to develop and produce high technology weapons, they must import weapons to modernize their forces. However, they are likely to be inhibited from procuring advanced weapons due to changes in the post-Cold War arms market, national and international efforts to limit proliferation of conventional arms, and the high cost of advanced weapons. Shortfalls in training, maintenance, logistics, and doctrine further constrain potential adversaries' capabilities.

Costly Modernization
Programs Planned Without
Sufficient Analysis of
Needs and Capabilities

The services are proceeding with costly acquisition programs to attain
greater capabilities in mission areas where U.S. capabilities are already
substantial. The long-range modernization of DOD's combat air power
centers on four extremely expensive aircraft development programs—the
Navy's $81 billion, 1,000-plane F/A-18E/F fighter/attack aircraft; the Air
Force's $70 billion, 438-plane F-22 air superiority fighter; the Army's
$45 billion, 1,292-plane Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter; and
the Air Force/Navy 2,978-plane Joint Strike Fighter that is still being
defined. Based on DOD's goals for the Joint Strike Fighter, the
Congressional Budget Office estimates the program could cost
$165 billion, excluding inflation. Table 1 summarizes acquisition cost
estimates for combat aircraft, weapons (including PGMS, theater air
defense weapons, and close support artillery), and support systems such
as surveillance and reconnaissance assets. (A more detailed list is in
app. III.)

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Longbow Apache
B-1 bomber
modifications
AV-8B remanufacture
Weapons
Combat support
Total

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$63.6

$239.5

$303.1a

a Joint Strike Fighter is not included in this table because DOD has not yet estimated its total
program cost. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the program could cost about
$165 billion in 1997 dollars.

DOD faces a major challenge in attempting to pay for all of the programs as planned. While DoD believes these modernization plans are affordable, a 1996 Congressional Budget Office analysis of the F/A-18E/F, F-22, and Joint Strike Fighter costs and likely funding available for these programs raises serious doubts and indicates that about $3 billion (1997 dollars) more will be required annually than may be available during the period 2002-2020.

DOD has not sufficiently assessed joint mission requirements and is therefore not well-positioned to determine the need for and priority of its planned investments. Major force structure and planning decisions have been made without completed analyses of the services' qualitative and quantitative requirements and capabilities to conduct combat air power missions.

A dearth of information on joint mission needs and aggregate capabilities to meet those needs prevents a definitive answer as to whether Dod's air power modernization programs are justified. However, based on past GAO reviews of individual air power systems and available information collected on its six mission reviews, Gao believes that DoD is proceeding with some major modernization programs without clear evidence that they are justified. Available information indicates that the current forces in some mission areas already provide combatant commanders with formidable capabilities. For example, the services already have at least 10 ways to hit 65 percent of the thousands of expected ground targets in two major regional conflicts. In addition, service interdiction assets can provide 140 to 160 percent coverage for many types of targets. Despite their numerous overlapping, often redundant, interdiction capabilities, the services plan to acquire aircraft and other weapons over the next 15 to 20 years that will further enhance their interdiction capabilities. This includes major modifications to the Air Force's fleet of 95 B-1B bombers to enable them to deliver conventional weapons.

The changed security environment appears to have lessened the need to proceed with some programs as planned. For example, despite the United States' unmatched air-to-air combat capabilities, the Air Force plans to begin production of its next generation fighter—the $111 million F-22-in 1998, with rapid increases in the production rate to follow. The F-22 program was initiated to meet the projected Soviet threat of the mid-1990s. The severity of the threat in terms of quantities and capabilities has declined and potential adversaries have few fighters that could challenge the F-15, the current U.S. frontline fighter.

For some highly expensive modernization programs, viable, less costly alternatives are available. In these cases, the payoff in terms of added mission capability-considering the investment required-does not appear to be clearly substantial as mandated by the National Military Strategy. For example, the Navy F/A-18E/F's expected range, carrier recovery payload, and survivability will be only marginally improved over that of the less costly F/A-18C/D model.

Joint Warfighting
Assessments Need to Be
More Comprehensive

DOD has taken steps to improve the information the Secretary of Defense
and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have to assess air power
plans, programs, and budgets. To enhance the information available on
combat requirements and capabilities, DOD has initiated major studies
related to deep attack weapons, close support of ground forces,
reconnaissance forces, and electronic warfare. It also expanded the role of
the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and established 10 joint
warfighting capability assessment teams to support the deliberations of
the Council. These assessment teams have identified ways to improve the
interoperability of forces in joint operations, and their assessments have
contributed to some decisions that could help to avoid future levels of
redundancy. However, the assessment teams thus far have had little
impact in identifying unneeded overlaps and duplication in existing
capabilities or in weighing the relative merits of alternative ways to
recapitalize U.S. air power forces. Gao also found little evidence that the
Council, with the support of the assessment teams, has developed specific
proposals to shift resources among the services to enhance total force
capability.

Certain obstacles must be overcome to improve the information flowing from a joint perspective. For example, DOD acknowledges that its current analytical tools, such as computer models and war games, need to be improved if they are to be effectively used in analyzing joint warfighting. Also, assessments that could threaten service plans and budgets are frequently avoided, and the potential effects of program reductions or cancellations on careers, jobs, and the industrial base inhibit serious consideration of program alternatives. Finally, the desire to gain the consensus of the services sometimes inhibits decisions that could better integrate service capabilities along mission lines. GAO acknowledges that more comprehensive assessments will not, by themselves, solve these long-standing problems. Major changes in outlook throughout the Department are also needed.

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