Defense Plans:

Plan to Better Use Air Force Squadrons Could Yield Benefits but Faces Significant Challenges

GAO-02-542: Published: Apr 30, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2002.

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The Air Force expeditionary aerospace force concept seeks to spread deployments more evenly across its forces and increase the predictability of deployments. By dual-tasking some fighter squadrons the Air Force could fulfill two requirements as the 2010 Concept envisions. Although significant challenges could impede the ability to maximize these benefits, the Air Force has not specifically analyzed what is needed to implement dual-tasking by 2010. Dual-tasking would result in more efficient use of squadrons and greatly reduce the need to use squadrons for more than one 90-day deployment every 15 months. Dual-tasking would provide theater commanders with the same number of aircraft to meet requirements as under current practice; however, the aircraft would come from fewer squadrons. Because a larger proportion of a squadron's aircraft would be used to meet requirements, and because dual-tasking uses fewer squadrons to meet requirements, the need to repeatedly use the same squadrons would be reduced. The number of squadrons needed for more than one 90-day period over a 15-month period would decline from 26 squadrons to five. More training would be required under dual-tasking. Yet, the Air Force has not quantified this increase, assessed how it would manage the increase, or projected how it would support such an increase either logistically or in its budget. To support deploying a greater portion of dual-tasked squadron's aircraft, more of the authorized maintenance positions would have to be filled. More than half of the maintenance specialties at the wings GAO analyzed were undermanned, and some were manned at less than 60 percent. Dual-tasking could cause maintenance personnel to be deployed more frequently than desired unless more of these vacant positions are filled. In addition, almost all of a squadron's pilots would be needed to meet dual-tasking requirements. This will pose challenges in managing pilot deployments.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Defense (DOD) partially concurred with GAO's recommendation, and agreed that dual-tasking offered significant potential future capability, readiness, and efficiency benefits. As such, the Department has taken the following steps to address GAO's recommendations. First, the Air Force determined that "dual-tasking will be guided by a detailed plan that accounts for increased training requirements and any personnel adjustments deemed necessary to meet maintenance demands" of F-16 aircraft squadrons that have avionics and other upgrades installed from fiscal years (FY) 2006-2010. Second, the Air Force has determined that once a sufficient number of pilots have been trained in operational units, the units' Designed Operational Capability statements (which define their assigned tasks) will be updated to include multi-mission capability. These changes are slated to begin in FY 2007, and any associated adjustments in personnel assignments will be made concurrently. Furthermore, Air Force F-16 training units also will modify their plans to meet the expanded mission taskings. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (PA&E) plan's to review the Air Force's FY 2006 Program Objective Memoranda to ensure that these modifications have been accommodated in the service's program proposals. Therefore, it is likely that further follow-up will be required to determine the status of GAO's recommendations. (5/18/07) The Air Force has not taken any action on GAO's recommendations and does not plan to because, as service officials explained, the concept of dual-tasking has been overcome by events. Specifically, taskings and mission requirements today are different than what was anticipated at the time the report was written. In 2002, the Air Force was strained by SEAD and PGM missions in Iraq flown from multiple locations a situation that dual-tasking could have alleviated. Today, the SEAD requirement is small and commanders are asking for some PGM (flown without pods which lessens training requirements) and non-traditional ISR missions (ie convoy support and overflying pipelines) flown from a few locations. Also, squadrons' designated operational capability statements have not changed to require training for dual-tasking. Squadrons train to their primary mission and customize training to their upcoming AEF deployment requirements which to date have not included a requirement for dual-tasking. Therefore, even though DOD partially agreed with our recommendations, we will close this recommendation with no action taken because we recognize that due to changed operational requirements, DOD is not using aircraft they way they envisioned at the time we made our recommendations.

    Recommendation: To be in a position to effectively implement its plans for dual-tasking by 2010, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to determine the actions and associated resources needed to fully implement this new concept.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Defense (DOD) partially concurred with GAO's recommendation, and agreed that dual-tasking offered significant potential future capability, readiness, and efficiency benefits. As such, the Department has taken the following steps to address the first three of GAO's recommendations. First, the Air Force determined that "dual-tasking will be guided by a detailed plan that accounts for increased training requirements and any personnel adjustments deemed necessary to meet maintenance demands" of F-16 aircraft squadrons that have avionics and other upgrades installed from fiscal years (FY) 2006-2010. Second, the Air Force has determined that once a sufficient number of pilots have been trained in operational units, the units' Designed Operational Capability statements (which define their assigned tasks) will be updated to include multi-mission capability. These changes are slated for FY 2007, and any associated adjustments in personnel assignments will be made concurrently. Furthermore, Air Force F-16 training units also will modify their plans to meet the expanded mission taskings. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (PA&E) plan's to review the Air Force's FY 2006 Program Objective Memoranda to ensure that these modifications have been accommodated in the service's program proposals. Therefore, it is likely that further follow-up will be required to determine the status of GAO's recommendations. (5/18/07) The Air Force has not taken any action on GAO's recommendations and does not plan to because, as service officials explained, the concept of dual-tasking has been overcome by events. Specifically, taskings and mission requirements today are different than what was anticipated at the time the report was written. In 2002, the Air Force was strained by SEAD and PGM missions in Iraq flown from multiple locations a situation that dual-tasking could have alleviated. Today, the SEAD requirement is small and commanders are asking for some PGM (flown without pods which lessens training requirements) and non-traditional ISR missions (ie convoy support and overflying pipelines) flown from a few locations. Also, squadrons' designated operational capability statements have not changed to require training for dual-tasking. Squadrons train to their primary mission and customize training to their upcoming AEF deployment requirements which to date have not included a requirement for dual-tasking. Therefore, even though DOD partially agreed with our recommendations, we will close this recommendation with no action taken because we recognize that due to changed operational requirements, DOD is not using aircraft they way they envisioned at the time we made our recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to incorporate the actions from this analysis into a strategic implementation plan and set milestones for accomplishing the actions. Specifically, the plan should identify (1) the actions needed to meet the anticipated increase in pilot training; (2) how squadrons might mitigate the risks associated with any reduction in training requirements; (3) the specific funding requirements to cover the increased costs of pilot training and how these requirements will be integrated into the Air Force's budget; and (4) a strategy to fill aircraft maintenance positions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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