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Marine Integrated Fire And Air Support System (MIFASS)
150 Million Dollar Failure
AUTHOR Major G. F. Brady
CSC 1988
	In the mid 1960's the Marine Corps recognized that in
the battlefield of the 80's and beyond, rapid mobility of
friend and foe plus the accuracy and lethality of weapons
would be far beyond the capability of the then present manual
command and control systems.
	Studies defined and quantified the requirement of future
tactical command and control systems and the approach
required to develop them.  The result was the approval of
MTACCS -- Marine Tactical Command and Control Systems.  The
MTACCS concept called for separate but coordinated definition
and development of seven command and control systems.
	The first MTACC system to undergo development was the
Marine Integrated Fire and Air Support System (MIFASS).  MIFASS
was conceived as a way of better integrating the
commanders supporting arms at all levels, thus achieving a
greater volume of support in a shorter period of time.
	In 1979, United Technologies' Norden Systems was awarded
a 39 million dollar contract to build a MIFASS engineering
development model (EDM) to be tested in 1982.  If successful,
a production contract would be awarded and the Marine Corps
would start receiving operational MIFASS systems by 1986.  In
1987, five years behind schedule, having failed the EDM
operational assessment test, and now at a cost of over 150
million dollars, MIFASS was canceled.
	What went wrong?  Many factors contributed to the
failure and eventual cancellation of MIFASS; Marine Corps
changing requirements after contract award, Norden Systems
not having a strong development team, reliance on an outdated
computer and finally a system that grew too big to be mobile.
	The hope in the 60's was to field MIFASS by fiscal year
1976 and to complete MTACCS by fiscal year 1981. However, 20
years and millions of dollars later, MIFASS is canceled and
not one MTACCS system is fielded.  The battlefield of the
future is here, but not one automated command and control
system has been fielded for Marines to use to control this 
THESIS STATEMENT:  In 1979 United Technologies' Norden Systems
was awarded a 39 million dollar contract to build a
MIFASS engineering development model (EDM) to be tested in
1982.  If successful, a production contract would be awarded
and the Marine Corps would start receiving operational
systems in 1986.  In 1987, five years behind schedule,
having failed the EDM operational assessment test
and now at a cost of over 150 million dollars, MIFASS was canceled.
What went wrong?
	A.	Present Manual System
	B.	Concept for Marine Tactical Command and Control
		Systems (MTACCS)
II.	MIFASS Development
	A.	MIFASS Test Bed
	B.	Contract Award
III.	MIFASS Development
	A.	Delays in Schedule
	B.	DT and Operational Assessment Test
IV.	Why Did MIFASS Fail
	A.	Concept Failures
	B.	Contractor Failures
	C.	Marine Corps Failures
	The Marine Tactical Command and Control System (MTACCS)
was a coneptual association of various computerized command
and control systems designed to provide the Marine Commander
with the tools required to survive on the battlefield of the
future.  The first MTACCS system to be developed was the
Marine Integrated Fire and Air Support System (MIFASS).  In
1979, United Technologies' Norden Systems was awarded a 39
million dollar contract to build an engineering development
model (EDM) to be tested in 1982.  If successful, a
production contract would be awarded and the Marine Corps
would start receiving operational MIFASS sysems by 1986.
In 1987, five years behind schedule, having failed the EDM
operational assessmenttest and now at a cost of over 150
million dollars, MIFAS was canceled.(4)  What went wrong?
	The picture of tomorrows battlefield has emerged as the
current generation of armaments and equipment has been
fielded and new doctrine developed.  It is clear that the
already impressive accuracy and lethality of today's weapons
will only increase with the passage of time.  Programmed
advances in electronics and communications equipment herald
an unprecedented capability for acquiring intelligence and
quickly exploiting it with precisely located and controlled
friendly forces.  In short, the battlefield of the future is here.
	In the mid 1960's, the Marine Corps recognized the need
for reviewing the adequacy of its command and control
capabilities for the battlefiled of the 80's and beyond.
The method of command and control at that time and until
future systems were developed was the cumbersome process of
voice radio, other manual modes of transmission and 
notetaking that is error-prone.  Future complicating the
commanders job was the necessity of updating cumbersome maps
and overlays which increases inefficiency and paperwork that
much more.  Additionally, when controlling three different
support arms simultaneously, the commander did not have a
real time situation display to enable maximum efficiency in
utilizing these support arms.
	In 1966 the Standord Research Institute and
Informatics, Incorporated , conducted stuides that defined
and quantified the requriement of future tactical command
and control systems and the approach required to develop
them.  The result was the approval of MTACCS -- Marine
Tactical Command and Control Systems.  The MTACCS concept 
called for separate but coordinated definition and
development of seven command and control systems.(8.26)
	The first MTACCS system to undergo development was the
Marine Integrated Fire and Air Support System (MIFASS).
MIFASS was conceived as a way of better integrating the
commanders supporting arms at all levels, thus achieving a
greater volume of support in a shorter period of time.  The
development program correctly tackled problems of 
coordination between separated fire support coordination
centers (FSCC), fire direction centers (FDC), and the direct
air support center (DASC); lack of real time friendly unit
location data with the resultant use of excessive safety
margins; slowness in the fire support planning process;
inability to cope with the current rate of data flow; and
the frequent errors combined in fire support requests.
	Previous to 1970 all services had been involved in
projects which attempted a simultaneous development of new
equipment, computer programs, and operational procedures.
In some of these cases, insufficient development and testing
in one or more of the areas resulted in either an inferior
or extremely costly system.  In 1970 the Department of 
Defense instituted the "fly-before-you-buy" policy for major
military procurements.  This policy called for a careful
objective determination of a new system's requirements and
capabilities before a production decision is made.(8.27)  In
other words, build an experimental system and thoroughly
test it before making the decision on a production contract
of multiple systems.
	After thorough consideration of the alternative means
by which to determine MTACCS design requirements, the test
bed approach was selected, consistent with the DOD policy of
"fly-before-you-buy."  The test bed approach begins with a
deliberate, complete, and objective determination of system
requirements through a series of CPX-like tests and
exercises.  Only then are the writing of system
specifications and finally, production pursued.(8:28)
	In 1972 MIFASS started its test bed development.  In
1975 the concepts from the test bed were defined in the
specific operational requirement (SOR) document for MIFASS.
Following review by the Marine Corps Development and
Education Center (MCDEC) and Headquarters Marine Corps
approval, the SOR became the baseline document used to write
the specifications for production of the operational version
of MIFASS.(8:29)  Over the next couple of years the system 
description document (SDD), detailed requirements document
(DRD), and the MIFASS specification document (ELEX-M296)
were developed.
	Some of the operational concepts developed during the 
MIFASS test bed represented significant departures from the
present, essentially manual fire and air support control
system.(8:29)  Although these concepts appeared to offer the
potential for more effective application of supporting arms
and were written into the specification requirements 
documents, they would be the cause of controversy and
eventually play a large role in the failure of MIFASS.
	The most innovative concept from the test bed was the
integration of the FSCC and DASC into a single fire and air
support center (FASC).  Studies conducted in support of this
concept also indicated reduction of personnel in some
artillery regiments and possibly eliminating the requirement
for a Marine Air Support Squadron which under the manual
system provides the DASC.
	Bold and later controversial the FASC concept in the
future of automation appeared to be the answer for
facilitating decision making at all command levels.  The
FASC concept would not only enable commanders to respond
more quickly to requests for fire support, but also help
them to coordinate the fires in their areas of
	In 1977 the Marine System and Acquisition Requirements
Committee (MSARC) directed that a full scale Engineering 
Development Model (EDM) be built and tested.  The Marine
Corps solicited from the defense industry proposals on the
approach to develop MIFASS.  In September 1978, Hughes
Aircraft and Norden Systems were awarded parallel one year
contracts to further define the approach to develop MIFASS.
	In September 1979, the Norden proposal was retained and
the company was awarded an appropriate 39 million dollar
contract to proceed with engineering development and
testing.  The EDM would be tested following the contracts'
36 month development schedule.  Beginning in September 1982,
if the EDM test was successful, Norden could be expected to
receive the production contract.  The Marine Corps was
expected to receive operational systems in 1986 with one
MIFASS system being deployed to each USMC amphibious force.
	The contract between the government and Norden Systems
was a cost plus contract as opposed to a fixed price
contract.  Norden had sweetened their proposal by not only 
providing a low bid but they would also pay toward the
development cost 17 cents on every dollar.  Norden would
lose money on developing MIFASS, however, with follow-on
MTACCS systems being proposed to use MIFASS developed 
equipment and computer programs, Norden expected to be the 
front runner in getting these contracts recovering any
losses occurring during the original development of MIFASS.
Under a cost plus contract there is an incentive bonus.
Under cost plus the government pays even if the cost exceeds
the contract bid.  However, as the cost exceeds the bid then
the incentive bonus shrinks.  It benefits the contractor to
try and stay within the bid he submits.  Of course as the
cost continues to grow past the original contract, the
government can look to cancel the contract.  The results of
this is having nothing for money spent and probably a law
suit from the contractor. (3)(6)
	It was not long before the first problems surfaced.  In
mid 1980, Norden, at an in-progress-review (IPR) meeting,
announced that they had underestimated the specification
requirements and not only would they be unable to meet the
36-month development schedule but they were estimating the 
cost to be 50 million dollars. (6)
	The Marine Corps was not faced with what seems to be
the norm when working with defense contractors; after the
contract is awarded then the problems of over cost and over
schedule begins.  However since Norden had only asked for a
6-month slip and the extra cost would be taken out of the
incentive bonus, the Marine Corps agreed to a 42-month EDM
development schedule. (6)
	In 1981 with Norden once again forecasting schedule
delays and increased cost the assistant commandant created a
working group comprised of Marines with various MOS
backgrounds to validate the requirements of MIFASS and make
recommendations on the direction MIFASS should take.  The
working group validated the concept of MIFASS with one
exception, the Fire and Air Support Center or FASC concept.
The FASC concept was taking the separate FSCC and DASC 
Centers that exist under the manual system and combining
them into one center, the FASC.  The working group declared
the FASC concept was not present Marine Corps doctrine and
development of a system should not change doctrine.  The
recommendation was made to continue MIFASS but the 
development should follow separate centers for the FSCC and
DASC instead of the FASC concept.(6)
	Norden systems for two years had been developing MIFASS
under the FASC concept.  The computer program coding and
system development was along the FASC structure and it would
be a massive effort to change the direction of the effort.
Norden declared this was change to the system requirement
and was not what they had originally bid on and the contract
would have to be renegotiated with a new monetary and time
schedule adjustment.  Both sides appeared to be losers at
this point.  If the Marine Corps canceled MIFASS, the Marine
Corps would have spent millions of dollars to date and have
nothing to show for it except probably a lawsuit from Norden
Systems.  Norden on the other hand, with the cancellation of
MIFASS would be out a lucrative market for follow-on systems
and since this was the first efort of Norden to develop a
total system vice compenents of systems reputations would be
	The Marine Corps and Norden Systems reached a
compromise.  The EDM schedule would be increased to 54
months and cost would again be increased.  Norden would take
what it had produced up to this time under the FASC concept,
create work arounds, and continue EDM development under the
separate center concept.  This was to create problems for
Norden for the rest of the EDM development period and was
one of the critical factors in the eventual failure of the
EDM test and resultant cancellation of MIFASS.(6)
	In 1982, the ACMC Committee overseeing MIFASS was
briefed on further development problems and approved a
schedule increase of 60 months.  The cost of MIFASS had now
gone past 70 million dollars.  The date to test the EDM had
now slipped two years.(11)
	It might be noted that by 1982 and at 70 million
dollars, the incentive bonus for Norden had now been eaten
up by the cost increases.  Norden was building MIFASS
without profit because of its contract, however, since it
was a cost plus contract the Marine Corps was paying all
development cost.
	The thought crosses peoples minds that at this stage,
why didn't the Marine Corps just canel the contract and get
some other contractor to build MIFASS.  It is not that
simple.  When a contract is awarded, especially for systems 
development, the losing contractors turn their effort to
other things.  This makes the contractor getting the
contract sole source.  Months down the road when over cost
and over schedule is the norm it is difficult for the
government to cancel the contract.  First, no other
contractor has continued with this system.  If the 
government wants another contractor, the whole bidding
process begins again.  Political pressures get thrown in and
what happens is the original contract continues with the
government pouring in more money trying to salvage
	This is what faced the Marine Corps on MIFASS in 1982.
Having spent millions of dollars up to that date, should the
contract be canceled and the Marine Corps have nothing or
continue on and salvage something.  The Marine Corps chose
to go forward.
	Beginning in 1982, to help keep development cost down,
certain functions/requirements were being deferred by the
Marine Corps from the EDM.  The thought being that these
requirements, such as the TADIL B interface, could bee added
to a production contract.  MIFASS was radically being
changed from its original concept.(11)
	In 1984, the ADMC committee approves delay of delivery
of the EDM for operational testing until 1986, four years
behind schedule and now at a cost of over 120 million
	In 1986, initial development testing (DT) of MIFASS
begins at Norden Systems facility.  All reports coming from
Marines at the DT indicate that MIFASS is not capable and
will never pass the operational testing.  The Commandant of
the Marine Corps decides that what is available must be
tested, for he wants to make the decision on MIFASS before
he retires 1 July 1987.(11)
	It is not possible to give an operational test to
MIFASS.  It is not capable of handling an exercise of live
aircraft and artillery so an operational "assessment" is
conducted in a CPX environment with one of the objectives
being can anything be salvaged from the MIFASS project.(4)
	The MIFASS operational "assessment" was completed by
May 1987.  When General P.X. Kelly retired as Commandant
1 July 1987, MIFASS was canceled.(5:110)
	Seventeen years in development and over 150 million
dollars spent during the EDM cycle, MIFASS is finished and
nothing is salvaged for future use.
	What went wrong?
	Lets look at a number of factors that contributed to
the downfall of MIFASS.
1.	Concept of MIFASS
	The concept of MIFASS is valid.  Automated command and
control systems offer the potential to aid in the
coordination and integration of our modern weapons, but in
MIFASS did the Marine Corps try to do too much at one time.
Should MIFASS have been developed in stages?  Through the
60's, 70's, and 80's the Marine Corps tried to develop an
automated DASC called the UYQ-4 built by Litton.  After
million of dollars and years of delay, the UYQ-4 was
canceled.  The question that sticks out is if the Marine
Corps could not get the automated DASC developed was it too
large a step to develop MIFASS all at once where not only
the DASC functions were to be automated but also fire
support, fire planning, target intelligence and reports
generation.  Did the Marine Corps want too much at one time?
	Additionally, did MIFASS, following the test bed
development cycle, grow larger than the original concept.
MIFASS was originally envisioned as being developed as a
division level center. (2:69)  Probably no more than a
8x8x20 shelter housing operators, computers and graphic
displays.  However as MIFASS went into EDM development the
requirement was to have capability not only at division
level but at regiments, battalions, separate DASC and at
FDC's.  The Marine Corps went from a building block approach
of getting one center to work to requiring numerous centers
operating with each other.
2.	Norden Systems
	What about the contractor?  Up to this time Norden's
reputation had been known for making components of systems.
MIFASS was their first attempt at building a system.  It
became apparent and by their own admission that they had not
really understood the specification requirements.  The
document Norden created leading up to the contract award was
in reality reiterating the specification documents that had
already been created by the Marine Corps, and then throwing
in a low bid.  As Marines assigned to the MIFASS project at
Marine Corps Tactical System Support Activity (MCTSSA) begin
working with Norden personnel the weakness of Norden's team
was evident.  (3)(6)  Norden did not have working on the
MIFASS project anyone with prior Marine experience much less
knowledgeable of DASC, fire support, fire planning, etc. and
how all these areas interact with each other.  As the MCTSSA
personnel interacted with Norden's personnel and explained
the specification requirements in more detail, Norden
realized they had underestimated the requirement and cost.
Did the Marine Corps fall for the cheapest bidder syndrome
only to find out too late cheapest bid is not always the
3.	Cost Plus Contracts
	By not insisting on fixed price contract the Marine
Corps does not force a contractor to really scrutinize and
give an accurate bid.  Cost plus contract to a sole source
leaves the door open for the contract to extend
indefinitely.  Although the Marine Corps received nothing
from MIFASS, Norden was able to build several facilities,
utilizing MIFASS funds, that will benefit them on other
projects in the years to come.
4.	Marine Corps Changing Requirements
	Nothing is probably more confusing to a contractor than
having begun work on a project than for the Marine Corps to
come to them and say they want to make changes to the
requirements.  This is wasted effort on both the Marine
Corps and the contractor.  It leads to confusion, charges
and counter charges and does severe damage to the project.
This changing of requirements problem happened as Marine
personnel rotated in and out of positions at Headquarters
and MCDEC during the development of MIFASS.(6)  An
individual would read something in the requirements document
that he disagreed with, be able to get it on the agenda for
one of the IPR's and then Norden would be given directions
that the Marines were heading in another direction.
5.	FASC vs FSCC/DASC Concept
	The changing from FASC to separate center concept two
years after Norden had received the contract caused an
upheaval that carried through until the cancellation of
MIFASS.  Because the Marine Corps did not want to
renegotiate the contract and start over again Norden was
forced to basterdize their development of MIFASS up to date.
For two years Norden had been developing not only the
software for the computer programs but the firmware resident
in the hardware that makes the system function,  All this
development was for the FASC concept.  To convert to 
separate center concept Norden had to create work arounds or
in other words "jury-rigging."  MIFASS goes to its 
operational test as a system developed under two concepts
with jury-riggs making it function.
	Time and again during DT testing at Norden and during
the operational assessment, problems and failure of the
system could be traced back to the "work arounds."(11)  This
was the prime example of the Marine Corps changing
requirements throughout the cycle of development.
6.	AN/AYK-14 Computer
	The Marine Corps decision in 1979 to mandate use of the
AYK-14 and the CMS-2 standard Navy software programming
language for MIFASS proved to be the programs undoing.
(5:110)  The size of the system's software increased far
beyond original estimates, resulting in program delays.
More significant, the AYK-14 ultimately proved to be too
slow in processing air and fire support missions and lacked
sufficient processing capability and memory to handle a peak
mission load.  Norden had recognized that the AYK-14
computer was inadequate but kept trying to make it work,
concerned that if they made an issue of the AYK-14
especially in the later years of the contract, the Marine
Corps would cancel the project.(11)
7.	Communications
	In the late 70's as MIFASS was ready to become reality
there was a great emphasis on development of communications.
The words on everyone's lips were LFICS -- Landing Force
Integrated Communications System -- the communications of
the future, able to support the upcoming automated data
systems.  However, LFICS did not materialize and the MIFASS
test relied on the current of family of radios; radios
adequate to support our current, manually-oriented command
and control needs, but overwhelmed when required to support
an automated, computerized, data-oriented command and
control system.  Unjustly or not MIFASS was perceived as a
failure due to communications.  The requirement for high
powered radios for digital communications creates high
vulnerability to electronic countermeasures and/or attack.
Because of separate centers the requirement to have constant
key radios reduced life expectancy of the radios, lowered
reliability, and increased maintenance cost.  One problem
that was Norden's fault were the interface cables used to
link MIFASS to the supporting communications equipment.
Many were poorly engineered and had to be modified during
field testing of the system.(4)
8.	Size
	MIFASS during its formative stage was visualized as
being small, rugged and no component weighing more than 50
pounds.  Not only did the weight of components increase but
as development progressed Norden created more components
than the Marine Corps had originally anticipated.  The early
publicity on MIFASS bragged that at the battalion level
MIFASS could be operated out of a bunker or a foxhole.
However, during development, MIFASS grew.  The result was
that at the battalion level the MIFASS system consists of
more than 10 components, weighs over 500 pounds and could
not be operated from inside an assault amphibian vehicle.
The regiment and division command post do not more often but
for a battalion command post that does move after the MIFASS
equipment was too much to handle. (5:110)
9.	Reliance on other systems
	MIFASS dependence on being a successful system would
rely on the support or input of other systems that were also
being developed.  The problem of LFICS has previously been
discussed.  An important feature of MIFASS was the real-time
display and dissemination of position location information
(PLI) of friendly units and enemy units.  This PLI was to be
received via the Position Location Reporting System (PLRS)
and a Tactical Digital Information Link (TADIL) to Marine
radars.  As the development cycle progressed and cost
escalated, the TADIL interface was one of items deferred
until a production contract.  When it came time to test
MIFASS, PLRS was not at the development stage where it could
reliably interface with the MIFASS.  MIFASS went through its
testing cycles unable to demonstrate reliabily one of its
major features, that of graphically displaying real time
unit locations.
10.	Congress
	It can be said that a lot of the problems happening to
Norden and MIFASS was something that they could not have
foreseen.  The Marine Corps changing requirements, 
government furnished communicatins equipment was
inadequate, other developing systems needed to supplement
MIFASS fell by the wayside.  The final blow to MIFASS was
the fact that both the Senate and House versions of the
Fiscal Year 1988 DoD Authorization Bill zeroed MIFASS
funding.  Congress had had enough!  (5:110)
	The Marine Corps did not have the time or the funds to
go through another development cycle to fix MIFASS.  Thus it
was decided to terminate the program, redefine its
requirements based on lessons learned, and to pursue a more
evolutionary acquisition approach using newer technology.  A
requirements group has been reconvened at Marine Corps
Headquarters to review the automated fire control
requirements and a project team has been formed at Quantico
to assess systems that might be procured in place of MIFASS.
	What about MTACCS?  What was the plan for MTACCS during
development in the 60's?  The hope was to field MIFASS by
fiscal year 1976 and the complete MTACCS by fiscal year
1981. (2:70)  Twenty years and millions of dollars later
MIFASS is canceled and not one MTACCS system has been
fielded.  The battlefield of the future as envisioned in the
60's is here, but not one automated command and control
system has been developed for Marines to use to control this
1.	After-Action Report on the Operational Assessment of
	the MIFASS Engineering Development Model (EDM) Direct
	Air Support Center (DASC).
2.	Armed Forces Management.  "MTACCS Touted as Solution to
	Marine Corps' Command and Control Problems." (July
3.	Brady, G. F., Maj, USMC, MIFASS Project Officer, Marine
	Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, 1979-1982.
	(Personal Notes)
4.	Gemar, R. L., Maj, USMC, Operational Test Officer for
	MIFASS, Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation
	Agency, 1986-1987.  Personal Interview (26 February
5.	Goodman, Glenn W., "Marines Cancel MIFASS but move
	ahead on other C3 Fronts."  Armed Forces Journal
	(August 1987).
6.	Miller, C. M., Maj, USMC.  MIFASS Project Officer,
	Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, 1979-
	1982.  Personal Interview (15 February 1988).
7.	Seidenman, Paul.  "Marine Integrated Fire and Air
	Support System."  National Defenese (October 1982).
8.	Stewart, James J., Maj, USMC, and Bartlett, Merrill L.,
	Capt, USMC.  "Test Bed for MTACCS."  Marine Corps
	Gazette (January 1973).
9.	Sullivan, A. P., Maj, USMC.  "TCOS" Boon or Bust?"
	Marine Corps Gazette (January 1987).
10.	Sundaram, Gowri S. "MIFASS, Key to Automated Fire
	Support."  International Defense Review (1987).
11.	Wallace, A. W., Capt, USMC.  Air Control Officer
	Assigned to MIFASS Test Directorate (FMF), 1984-1987.
	Personal Interview (4 March 1988).
12.	Wallace, A. W., Capt, USMC.  "Marine Integrated Fire
	and Air Support System (MIFASS) History File."
	Memorandum (June 1987)

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