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Operation Desert Storm:
Evaluation of the Air Campaign
(Letter Report, 06/12/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-134)


(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

The following are GAO's comments on the DOD's letter dated March 28,


1.  The acquisition of new precision-guided munitions may well
provide new capabilities that overcome the limitations observed in
Operation Desert Storm.  However, the degree to which these new
munitions may overcome the limitations of existing munitions can only
be determined after rigorous operational test and evaluation of both
new and existing munitions. 

2.  The Deep Attack/Weapons Mix Study will not fully address the
implications of our findings concerning the strengths and limitations
of guided and unguided munitions.  DAWMS is an analysis of the full
range of precision-guided munitions in production and in research,
development, test, and evaluation that will determine the number and
types of precision-guided munitions that are needed to provide a
complementary capability against each target class.  By analyzing
only precision-guided munitions, the study does not address the
benefits realized from 92 percent of the munitions delivered in
Operation Desert Storm.  The premise of the DAWMS does not
acknowledge the ambiguous results from Desert Storm regarding
munitions effectiveness, the cost and operational trade-offs between
guided and unguided munitions, and the demonstrated preference for
unguided over guided munitions against several strategic target

3.  The Precision Strike Architecture study was designed to define a
"system of systems" for precision strike by

  defining the mission,

  identifying the component systems,

  developing a concept of operations,

  facilitating opportunities for system evolution,

  creating criteria for establishing choices among alternatives, and

  determining costs. 

The resulting architecture for precision strike is a plan that
addresses the limitations in strike capabilities demonstrated in our
report.  However, the degree to which the sensor and other precision
strike shortcomings are alleviated cannot be known until a new
precision strike architecture is implemented and tested. 

4.  We strongly acknowledge the need to maintain a rigorous
operational test and evaluation capability to ensure that commanders,
planners, and operators are aware of both the strengths and
weaknesses of existing and new weapon systems under a variety of
combat conditions. 

5.  While the physical limitations of all sensors, including laser
and forward-looking infrared, may have been known before Desert
Storm, they were not necessarily fully acknowledged by DOD or its
contractors either before the conflict or in reports to the Congress
after the coalition's victory. 

6.  Our recommendation addresses the demonstrated intelligence
shortcomings in performing BDA and in identifying strategic targets
in Operation Desert Storm.  It is not apparent that the scope of the
Deep Attack/Weapons Mix Study is sufficient to address DOD's need to
cultivate intelligence sources that can identify and validate
strategic targets in future scenarios. 

7.  Part of the significance of the munitions use data from Desert
Storm is that it reveals patterns of use when perfect BDA does not
exist.  For example, we found in Desert Storm that multiple strikes
and weapon systems were used against the same targets; more munitions
were delivered than peacetime test capabilities would indicate as
necessary; determinations of whether target objectives were met were
frequently unknown; and when objectives were met, the specific system
responsible could not be determined.  These observations should
temper one of the primary expectations of the DAWMS:  that a growing
inventory and increasing capabilities of weapons will reduce the
sorties required for deep attack missions. 

8.  We recognize that where DOD concurs with the premises of our
recommendations, it does so based on information other than the
analyses we conducted of the Desert Storm air campaign.  Owing to
these differences, the solutions pursued by DOD may not fully address
the needs we perceived.  Therefore, although the scope of the
specific studies and ACTDs indisputably address our recommendations,
the degree to which they result in solutions to Desert Storm
shortcomings and limitations cannot be known until the resulting
changes and innovations are operational.