Force Structure:

Department of the Navy's Tactical Aviation Integration Plan Is Reasonable, but Some Factors Could Affect Implementation

GAO-04-900: Published: Aug 13, 2004. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 2004.

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The Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Appropriations Act and the Senate Report for the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act mandated that GAO examine the Navy and Marine Corps' Tactical Aviation Integration Plan. In response to these mandates, this report addresses (1) how Navy and Marine Corps operational concepts, force structure, and procurement costs change; (2) the methodology and assumptions the services used to analyze the potential for integrating the forces; (3) the analytical process the services used to decide which reserve squadrons to decommission; and (4) other factors that might affect implementation of the Plan.

Concerns about the affordability of their prior tactical aviation procurement plan prompted the Navy and Marine Corps to agree to a new Tactical Aviation Integration Plan. Under this Plan, the two services will perform their missions using fewer units of more capable aircraft and reducing total program aircraft procurement costs by $28 billion over the next 18 years. Operationally, the Navy and Marine Corps will increase the extent to which their tactical aviation units are used as a combined force to accomplish both services' missions. The Plan also reduces the services' tactical aviation force structure by decommissioning five squadrons, thus decreasing the number of Navy and Marine Corps squadrons to 59, and reduces the total number of aircraft they plan to buy from 1,637 to 1,140. The Department of the Navy based its conclusion that it could meet the Navy and Marine Corps' operational requirements with a smaller force primarily on the findings of a contractor study that evaluated the relative capability of different tactical aviation force structures. GAO's review of the contractor's methodology and assumptions about force structure, budget resources, and management efficiencies suggests that much of the analysis appears reasonable. However, GAO noted some limitations--including the lack of analytical support for reducing the number of backup aircraft--increase the risk that the smaller force will be less effective than expected. The Navy and Marine Corps each followed a different process in selecting a reserve squadron to decommission. The Marine Corps made a clear and well-documented analysis of the operational, fiscal, logistical, and personnel impacts of different options that appears to provide decision makers with a reasonable basis for selecting the Reserve unit to decommission. By contrast, the Navy selected its reserve squadron without clear criteria or a documented, comprehensive analysis, and thus with less transparency in its process. Two other factors that might affect successful implementation of the Plan are the potential unavailability of readiness funding and delays in fielding the new force. Although the contractor recommended that the Navy identify future readiness-funding requirements, to date, the Navy has not conducted this analysis. In addition, the Department of the Navy is experiencing engineering and weight problems in developing the Joint Strike Fighter that will cause it to be delayed until 2013, at least 1 year later than had been projected, and other high risks to the program remain. Because these delays will cause the Navy to operate legacy aircraft longer than expected, they might also increase operations and maintenance costs, making an analysis of future readiness funding requirements even more important.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To enhance the potential that the future Navy and Marine Corps integrated tactical aviation force will meet the mission needs of both services and ensure more transparency when making future decommissioning decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to thoroughly assess all of the factors that provide the basis for the number of backup aircraft needed to support a smaller tactical aviation force under the plan to integrate Navy and Marine Corps tactical aviation forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy completed its review of tactical aircraft in September 2004. The review included E-2C, F/A-18A-F, and EA-18G. The Navy conducted a baseline assessment that validated current aircraft requirements vs. actual inventory. It assessed inventory optimization options to include mission capability, Operation Availability improvements, Fleet Replacement Squadron efficiencies, RDT&E efficiencies, decreased pipeline aircraft inventories, active flight envelope and inventory management, common configuration and divestment options, and reserve integration.

    Recommendation: To enhance the potential that the future Navy and Marine Corps integrated tactical aviation force will meet the mission needs of both services and ensure more transparency when making future decommissioning decisions, the Secretary of Defense should develop guidance that (1) identifies the criteria and methodology for analyzing future decisions about which units to decommission and (2) establishes requirements for documenting the process used and analysis conducted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness issued a policy memo on September 18, 2006, that establishes new DOD policy and procedures to coordinate personnel reductions, closures of installations, and reductions of contract operations in the United States. The procedures in the memo state that the written request must contain the criteria and methodology used in making this force structure decision and establishes other requirements for documenting the process used and analysis conducted. This memo serves as interim guidance while the Department revises DOD Directive 5410.10. However, as we stated in the report, the new guidance, if followed, would disclose these aspects of the decision-making process; however, it does not appear sufficient to meet the need we identified for consistency and documentation to support force structure decisions. Therefore, we believe that DOD should take additional steps to meet the intent of our recommendation by developing consistent criteria and requiring documentation to ensure transparency for those providing oversight of such decisions in the future. DOD officials stated that the Department does not plan to take any additional steps at this time.

    Recommendation: To enhance the potential that the future Navy and Marine Corps integrated tactical aviation force will meet the mission needs of both services and ensure more transparency when making future decommissioning decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to analyze future readiness funding requirements to support the tactical aviation integration plan and include required funding in future budget requests.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has developed and implemented a series of analytical metrics and tools to provide insight into resource expenditure and to provide recommendations for funding readiness accounts to achieve target readiness levels. Four of the metrics and the insight they are expected to provide are described below. Using the Training and Readiness (T&R) metrics, flight hours are funded precisely to support each task making distinct contribution to aircrew readiness levels. Aircrew training is measured and budgeted with a direct and quantifiable output. Using the Measures of Effectiveness/Measures of Performance, each task within the Commander, Naval Air Forces T&R has measures applied to determine successful demonstration of a readiness skill set. This ensures accurate tracking and correlation of funds expended compared to readiness achieved at the aircrew level. Using B-standards, Navy Mission Essential Task Lists-based standards and performance measures for events are applied within major Fleet Response Training Plan milestones. Standardized for each Strike Group and funded to a calculated probability for successful achievement of the standard, the B-standards are the measures and control used to track and correlate funds applied to Strike Group level training. The use of Naval Aviation Readiness Integrated Improvement Program Cross Functional Team 1 Entitlements avoids excess inventory of resources and pairs with flight hour program as the key drivers in readiness predictability.

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