The Army's current strategy for acquiring light helicopters is inconsistent with Defense Department policy and limits the amount of information available on the aircraft before full-scale development begins, according to a report released Friday.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the Army made considerable changes in the acquisition strategy for the light helicopter, or LHX, to reduce development costs from $5.4 billion to $3.9 billion."The Army has chosen a higher risk acquisition strategy that may not provide decision-makers with critical information - such as demonstrated performance and validation of cost estimates - when needed for key decisions," the GAO said.

"This information is pivotal for the LHX program, given the advanced technology involved and the demonstrated impact of cost growth on the program's affordability," the report said.

The LHX represents the Army's next generation of scout and attack helicopters and the service envisions having the aircraft replace its fleet of aging helicopters.

The Army expects the LHX to perform a number of missions, including battlefield reconnaissance, locating and attacking armored targets, striking deep against enemy positions and engaging enemy helicopters in air combat.

The LHX program, begun in 1983, is estimated at more than $40 billion.