Air Force officials began planning for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) about three years ago with the intent of replacing and modernizing aircrafts on the existing system by 2035. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Thursday that the service needs to create a plan if that goal is to be reached.

The ABMS is a network to connect U.S. forces across domains using sensors and cloud-based data sharing in order to provide real-time intelligence information. The Air Force has requested over $300 million for ABMS development activities in fiscal year 2021. The system is intended to be the replacement of the current Airborne Warning and Control System, but in December 2019, Air Force officials stated an overall plan for ABMS did not exist, GAO said.

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“The Air Force has not established a plan or business case for ABMS that identifies its requirements, a plan to attain mature technologies when needed, a cost estimate, and an affordability analysis,” the report stated. GAO conducted the congressionally mandated performance audit of the system from August 2019 to April 2020.


The Air Force must report certain requirements about the system to Congress by June. GAO said the Air Force has taken “some steps to establish an ABMS management structure,” but that “the authorities of Air Force offices to plan and execute ABMS efforts are unclear.”

The report made four recommendations for the system all addressed to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper. One recommendation to “formalize and document acquisition authority and decision-making responsibilities of the Air Force offices involved in the planning and execution of ABMS” included a provision that the document be submitted to Congress in June.

The Department of Defense concurred with all of GAO’s recommendations.


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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.