Defense Ammunition:

DOD Meeting Small and Medium Caliber Ammunition Needs, but Additional Actions Are Necessary

GAO-05-687: Published: Jul 27, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 2005.

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Following the end of the Cold War, the Department of Defense (DOD) significantly reduced its purchases of small and medium caliber ammunition and reduced the number of government-owned plants that produce small and medium caliber ammunition. Since 2000, however, DOD's requirements for these types of ammunition have increased notably. Because the success of military operations depends in part on DOD having a sufficient national technology and industrial base to meet its ammunition needs, Congress asked GAO to review DOD's ability to assess if its supplier base can meet small and medium caliber ammunition needs. Specifically, we (1) identified changes over the past several years that have increased the requirement for small and medium caliber ammunition, (2) assessed the actions DOD has taken to address the increased requirement, and (3) determined how DOD plans to ensure that it can meet future small and medium caliber ammunition needs.

DOD's increased requirements for small and medium caliber ammunition over the past several years are largely the result of increased weapons training requirements needed to support the Army's transformation to a more self-sustaining and lethal force--an effort accelerated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001--and the deployment of forces to conduct recent U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Between fiscal years 2000 and 2005, total requirements for small caliber ammunitions more than doubled, from about 730 million to nearly 1.8 billion rounds, while total requirements for medium caliber ammunitions increased from 11.7 million rounds to almost 22 million rounds. DOD has initiated several steps to meet the increased demand, including funding about $93.3 million for modernization improvements at the three government-owned ammunition plants producing small and medium caliber ammunition. DOD is currently able to meet its medium caliber requirement through modernization efforts at the government-owned ammunition plants and through contracts with commercial producers. The government-owned plant producing small caliber ammunition cannot meet the increased requirements, even with these modernization efforts. Also, commercial producers within the national technology and industrial base have not had the capacity to meet these requirements. As a result, DOD has had to rely at least in part on foreign commercial producers to meet its small caliber ammunition needs. DOD has taken steps to ensure that the national technology and industrial base can meet future small caliber ammunition needs by building flexibility into the acquisition system to address fluctuations. In addition, a planning process has been put in place to ensure that the base can respond to longer-term DOD ammunition needs, including small and medium caliber ammunition. While the process is ongoing, information to effectively implement the plan and timely performance measures to ensure accountability are lacking.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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 improve DOD's ability to manage the national technology and industrial base for small and medium caliber ammunition and to address risks to that base, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to ensure that needed information on planned ammunition procurements is provided to the Program Executive Officer for Ammunition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Ammunition issued "The General Guidance for Submitting Request for Section 806 Determination to the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition" on April 12, 2007.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to manage the national technology and industrial base for small and medium caliber ammunition and to address risks to that base, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology to ensure that the Program Executive Officer for Ammunition identifies and provides key resources and develops metrics for measuring annual progress in meeting planned goals and objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense concurred with this recommendation. According to a March 2009 memorandum from the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, the Army released the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition Industrial Base Strategic Plan: 2015 in January 2009. The plan identifies 25 metrics for measuring progress in achieving seven strategic goals.

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