What you need to know
- An audit by the U.S. Department of Defense found that the Army may end up "wasting up to $21.88 billion in taxpayer funds" if soldiers do not want to use IVAS headsets.
- IVAS is the codename for the military version of the HoloLens headset that Microsoft is developing for the military.
- The audit explained that IVAS program officials did not define minimum user acceptance levels to determine if the project meets the needs of soldiers.
Microsoft announced a deal worth potentially $22 billion with the U.S. Army to produce HoloLens-like headsets for the military. Since that announcement, the deal has ran into several issues, including delays and reported disarray in Microsoft's augmented reality team. Now, it turns out that soldiers may not even want to use the Integrated Audio Visual System (IVAS).
An audit by the U.S. Department of Defense (PDF) found that "IVAS program officials did not define minimum user acceptance levels to determine whether IVAS would meet user needs" (via The Register). This happened because the Army did not require the officials to define "suitable user acceptance levels."
Potentially, the IVAS contract could result in a large loss for the U.S. Army, according to the audit.
"Procuring IVAS without attaining user acceptance could result in wasting up to $21.88 billion in taxpayer funds to field a system that Soldiers may not want to use, or use as intended, because [redacted]," said the report
While the audit is heavily redacted, the crux of its argument is that officials did not set a clear mark of what level of user acceptance is good enough. As a result, it is difficult to determine if the IVAS project will prove useful for the Army.
The meatier parts of the audit, including soldiers' overall acceptance of IVAS, are redacted. There are, however, some noteworthy portions.
"Results from the surveys show both positive and negative user acceptance. Army officials stated that it was difficult to assess Soldier feedback," stated the audit.
"Officials also stated that challenges to assessing user acceptance included asking the right questions, Soldiers not liking change, comparing prototype 'in process' systems to current capabilities, and lack of Soldier knowledge or training on new systems."
Parts of the conclusion are also left available for viewing. "Program officials stated that, if Soldiers do not love IVAS and do not find it greatly enhances accomplishing the mission, then Soldiers will not use it," said the report. The remainder of the conclusion is redacted.
A section labeled "Management Comments on the Finding and Our Response" has notes based on comments from the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Douglas R. Bush, as well as a response from the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense.
Bush claimed that the emphasis on the potential waste of almost $22 billion is misleading because "it is a contract ceiling over a 10‑year period and includes all possible sales to the Services and foreign military sales."
The Assistant Secretary also pointed to other types of technology that were not initially met with high acceptance, including "night vision goggles, machine guns, and automated transport replacing horses."
"While we agree there is inherent tension between user acceptance and opportunity, having an established measurement or goal enables officials to know that close combat forces accept, want to use, and can function effectively with IVAS," said the Department of Defense in response.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at email@example.com.