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Duplication > Defense

A departmentwide acquisition strategy could reduce DOD's risk of costly duplication in purchasing tactical wheeled vehicles

Why Area Is Important

The Department of Defense (DOD) spends billions of dollars each year to procure tactical wheeled vehicles, such as several types of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Tactical wheeled vehicles are used to transport people, weapons, and cargo. The advent of improvised explosive devices has had a significant effect on designing tactical wheeled vehicles for survivability. DOD is in the process of acquiring two new armored designs—the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle, and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. The estimated total acquisition cost for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle is about $12.5 billion. The military services expect to have a variety of tactical wheeled vehicles in use at any given time. Since 2008, GAO has identified tactical wheeled vehicle procurement as being at risk for duplication, and in 2009 GAO recommended that DOD develop a unified acquisition strategy.

What GAO Found

DOD's acquisition of two similar tactical wheeled vehicles—the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, including an All Terrain variant, and eventually the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle—creates a risk of unplanned overlap in capabilities that could increase acquisition costs significantly. The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain vehicle contractor was expected to complete deliveries in November 2010. According to program officials, the vehicles fielded so far appear to be performing well. Development efforts for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with an expected initial acquisition of over 60,000 vehicles, are still ongoing. While acquisition costs for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are yet to be determined, a low-end estimate is $18.5 billion. The cost per unit, including mission equipment, could be over $800,000 each.

To date, the services have not considered using the vehicles in the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected family—with the exception of some vehicles planned for use by route clearance, explosives ordinance disposal, and medical evacuation units—to offset the need for or replace other tactical wheeled vehicles. Currently, the services consider Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to be mainly additive to their fleets. Given the high potential cost of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, reducing the number of units acquired could offer substantial savings, albeit with potential performance tradeoffs. To illustrate, a 5 percent reduction in Joint Light Tactical Vehicle quantities could save nearly $2.5 billion, assuming a unit cost of $800,000.

DOD does not have a unified tactical wheeled vehicle strategy that considers timing, capabilities, affordability, and sustainability. DOD stated in 2009 that it would create a unified plan for tactical wheeled vehicle investment decisions. The plan would be a comprehensive strategy compatible with Army and Marine Corps equipping strategies. As of January 2011, the Army had completed and released its updated tactical wheeled vehicle strategy, the Marine Corps had not yet completed its updated strategy, and DOD had not yet issued a timetable for completing a unified, departmentwide strategy.

With the Army and Marine Corps facing decisions about whether to repair, upgrade, or replace older tactical vehicles, it is important to fully assess the requirements and cost for buying and maintaining all classes of tactical wheeled vehicles from the dual perspectives of mission need and affordability. The services need to know what capabilities the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will have, the scope and cost of any recapitalization of other vehicles or production effort, and the sustainment cost of placing the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected family of vehicles in their force structures. The services have expressed concern about their ability to fund operations and support costs for tactical wheeled vehicles in the future.

Actions Needed

DOD could save both acquisition and support costs through a departmentwide tactical wheeled vehicle strategy that considers costs and benefits of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle compared to other tactical wheeled vehicle options.

To help the agency assess the affordability of these acquisitions and their implications for competing demands within the department, DOD needs to complete its planned DOD-wide tactical wheeled vehicle strategy to determine

  • what capabilities Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will have,
  • the scope and cost of any recapitalization of other vehicles or production effort, and
  • the sustainment cost of placing the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected family of vehicles in their force structures.

In addition, as GAO recommended in November 2010, DOD should include in the strategy a cost-benefit analysis that could minimize the collective acquisition and support costs of the various tactical wheeled vehicle programs and reduce the risk of unplanned overlap or duplication. Such a cost-benefit analysis should provide an estimate of dollar savings for various options for offsetting Joint Light Tactical Vehicle quantities in favor of recapitalizing existing vehicles.

Any potential offsets between Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, to the extent that they are supported by cost-benefit analyses, could save both acquisition and support costs. Simply reducing the number of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles DOD procures could result in billions of dollars in cost savings. For instance, a reduction of just 5 percent would save $2.5 billion, assuming a unit cost of $800,000. In addition to saving initial procurement costs, reducing tactical wheeled vehicle acquisition quantities has the potential to reduce future operational and maintenance costs.

DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations and said that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program will conduct an analysis of alternatives that explores potential offsets to planned acquisition quantities, including those related to the replacement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. In addition, as a part of DOD's planned analysis of alternatives to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Army and Marine Corps have stated they will explore the implications, including maintenance and lifecycle cost benefits, of acquiring a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle family of vehicles as a part of a mixed vehicle fleet.

Framework for Analysis

The information contained in this analysis is based on the related GAO products listed listed under the "Related GAO Products" tab.

Area Contact

For additional information about this area, contact Mike Sullivan at (202) 512-4841 or sullivanm@gao.gov.

Related GAO Products

Defense Acquisitions:

Issues to Be Considered as DOD Modernizes Its Fleet of Tactical Wheeled Vehicles
GAO-11-83:
Published: Nov 5, 2010. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 2010.

Defense Acquisitions:

Department of Defense Needs a Unified Strategy for Balancing Investments in Tactical Wheeled Vehicles
GAO-09-968R:
Published: Sep 28, 2009. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2009.

National Defense:

Rapid Acquisition of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles
GAO-08-884R:
Published: Jul 15, 2008. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 2008.