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New GAO Report on Uncrewed Maritime Systems

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report of potential interest to the defense acquisition workforce entitled “GAO-22-104567 Uncrewed Maritime Systems: Navy Should Improve…

New GAO Report on Uncrewed Maritime Systems

New GAO Report on Uncrewed Maritime Systems
Bill Kobren
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report of potential interest to the defense acquisition workforce entitled “GAO-22-104567 Uncrewed Maritime Systems: Navy Should Improve Its Approach to Maximize Early Investments”.

According to the GAO, “the Navy envisions using uncrewed maritime systems—robot ships and submersibles with artificial intelligence instead of sailors—to meet current and future threats at sea. The Navy estimates it will spend $4.3 billion to acquire 21 uncrewed vehicles over the next 5 years, but this estimate doesn't include the "digital infrastructure"—e.g., data repositories and software—needed for AI…. we found that this understates the costs associated with these systems because it does not account for all costs—specifically operations and sustainment, and the digital infrastructure necessary to enable them. Now, the Navy is prototyping 6 kinds of uncrewed vehicles. Managing these together as a portfolio could help the Navy balance resources and focus on common elements, such as the digital infrastructure….GAO is making seven recommendations, including that the Navy (1) complete a cost estimate with full costs to develop and operate uncrewed maritime systems, (2) establish an uncrewed maritime systems portfolio and assign leadership to oversee it using portfolio management leading practices, and (3) develop evaluation criteria and schedules for its prototypes.”

The GAO also offered an important reminder about life cycle costs, saying “we have previously reported that operations and sustainment costs for ship programs are a significant portion of a program’s total cost. Given that operations and sustainment costs are such a large portion of a shipbuilding program’s total cost, the Navy cannot fully assess the affordability of uncrewed maritime systems without an understanding of operations and sustainment costs, even if an estimate of these costs needs to be refined over time as more knowledge is gained through prototyping.”