The Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) in DoD was established in 1983. Before then, there were several organizations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) involved in one or more aspects of operational testing; none had the responsibility of managing or monitoring operational testing and evaluation as a whole. In addition, each service was generally responsible for planning, conducting, evaluating, and reporting its own operational tests. With limited DoD oversight, each service developed unique procedures and regulations for operational testing and evaluation. They differed in the flexibility of operational test guidelines, in the extent to which test results were used iteratively to improve weapon systems, and in the degree to which operational test agencies were subordinate to organizations responsible for system development.

Without any unified structure or policy for operational testing and evaluation, DoD began to be strongly criticized in the late 1960s. Testing agencies often suffered from high turnover and were often subordinate to organizations responsible for new system development. There were excessive layers of bureaucracy separating the test agencies from the chiefs of staff (direct reporting of test results to decision makers was all but non-existent), and operational commands generally set aside insufficient funding, personnel, or facilities to accomplish adequate testing and evaluation. (For detailed historical information prior to 1970, see Blue Ribbon Defense Panel, 1970.)

In 1971 Congress enacted Public Law 92-156 which, among other things, required DoD to begin reporting operational test results to Congress. The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the military services to designate field commands, independent of the system developers and the eventual users, to be responsible for planning, conducting, and evaluating operational tests (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1986). These agencies were instructed to report directly to the appropriate chief of staff.

The next major change in DoD came in 1983, with the congressionally established DOT&E. DOT&E is headed by a director, who is the principal department adviser to the Secretary of Defense on operational testing and evaluation and is responsible for prescribing policies and procedures for its conduct. By law, a major defense acquisition program may not proceed beyond low-rate initial production until initial operational test and evaluation is completed. The law requires that the director shall analyze the results and prepare a report stating the opinion of the director as to:

  1. whether the test and evaluation performed were adequate; and

  2. whether the results of such test and evaluation confirm that the items or components actually tested are effective and suitable for combat.

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