Air Force, Navy Failed to Meet Aircraft Availability Goals, Watchdog Finds
Photo: Defense Dept.
The Air Force and Navy failed to meet their aircraft availability goals over a span of five years, according to a new report by a government watchdog.
The Government Accountability Office released the results of an audit Sept. 10 showing that between fiscal years 2011 and 2016 the services generally came up short, with aircraft availability growing worse over time for nearly half of the assessed models.
“The Air Force and Navy share a variety of sustainment challenges, including the age of their aircraft as well as maintenance and supply support issues,” the report stated. “These challenges have led to half of the aircraft in our review experiencing decreasing availability [between 2011 and 2016] and to the aircraft in general not being able to meet aircraft availability goals.”
The GAO assessment included 12 Air Force and Navy models with a total of 2,823 aircraft reviewed overall, including: F-16 Fighting Falcons, F/A-18A/D Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, F-22 Raptors and AV-8B Harrier IIs.
Other platforms reviewed by the GAO were: the B-52 Stratofortress bomber, C-2A Greyhound and C-17 Globemaster III transport and cargo planes, E-2C/D Hawkeye early warning systems, E-8C surveillance and targeting aircraft and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare plane.
The audit was conducted from Sept. 2016 to April 2018.
The report also detailed a number of issues that were affecting sustainment and aircraft availability, including delays in acquiring replacement aircraft, diminishing manufacturing sources and delays in maintenance.
According to the report, only one of the 12 aircraft types achieved availability goals every year from 2011 to 2016. Five of the aircraft failed to hit their goal in any year, and six aircraft had mixed results.
Accompanying these problems, operating and support costs increased for five of the models during that period, as maintenances costs increased for eight of the aircraft, the GAO reported.
The Defense Department "spends billions of dollars annually to sustain its weapon systems to support current and future operations,” the GAO said. “The Air Force and Navy are operating many of their fixed-wing aircraft well beyond their original designed service lives and therefore are confronted with sustainment challenges.”
The report also notes that the Air Force documented sustainment strategies for all aircraft they reviewed, but the Navy has not documented or updated sustainment strategies for select aircraft since before 2012.
The GAO suggested that the Pentagon update its policy guidance, clarifying whether weapon system sustainment strategy documents should be required to be updated.
“Clarifying the requirements to document sustainment strategies for legacy systems, and documenting those strategies, would add additional visibility over the availability and O&S costs of DoD aircraft and any associated sustainment risks,” the report said.
The Defense Department responded to the GAO report, saying it agreed with the recommendation and will add clarifying language.
“While the department policy specifies that all programs will have Life Cycle Sustainment Plan that is updated every five years following initial operating capability, additional language will be added to DoDI 50000.02 to clarify this applies to all legacy weapon systems," it said.