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Pentagon Inspector General faults US Army IVAS evaluation criteria, service pushes back

US Army soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division use an IVAS prototype during a trench-clearing exercise in October 2020 at Fort Pickett in Virginia. (US Army)

US Army acquisition officials did not clearly define metrics for assessing soldier feedback of its Microsoft's militarised HoloLens 2 augmented reality (AR) system, which could lead to billions of dollars in wasted spending, according to a new Department of Defense (DoD's) Inspector General report.

The office announced in 2021 that it would audit the army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to find out if service officials “are producing and fielding” a system that will ultimately “meet capability requirements and user needs”. This audit was launched at a time when the service had already inked a multi-billion-dollar production contract with Microsoft, but just months later postponed fielding the capability after discovering problems with the device that caused soldiers to experience a range of physical ailments, from headaches to nausea, meaning they were not capable of completing essential combat tasks.

On 22 April the Inspector General released its final IVAS audit report, and said that although army testing officials used solider feedback to make system changes, they did not properly “define minimum user acceptance levels to determine whether IVAS would meet user needs”.

“This occurred because army policy did not require programme officials to define suitable user acceptance levels,” the DoD Inspector General wrote in the public report. “Procuring IVAS without attaining user acceptance could result in wasting up to USD21.88 billion in taxpayer funds to field a system that soldiers may not want to use or use as intended.”

To prevent this from happening again, the office made three recommendations, all of which the army disagreed with or that remain unresolved to some extent.

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