Defense Management:

Additional Measures to Reduce Corrosion of Prepositioned Military Assets Could Achieve Cost Savings

GAO-06-709: Published: Jun 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2006.

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The military services store prepositioned stocks of equipment and material on ships and land in locations around the world to enable the rapid fielding of combat-ready forces. GAO's prior work has shown that the readiness and safety of military equipment can be severely degraded by corrosion and that the Department of Defense (DOD) spends billions of dollars annually to address corrosion. GAO was asked to review the impact of corrosion on prepositioned assets. GAO's specific objectives were to assess (1) the measures taken by the Army and the Marine Corps to reduce the impact of corrosion on prepositioned assets and (2) the availability of corrosion-related data to the Army and the Marine Corps to support corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts for prepositioned assets.

The Army and Marine Corps have taken some measures to reduce the impact of corrosion on prepositioned assets, primarily through the use of humidity-controlled storage facilities on ships and in some land-based locations, but a substantial portion of Army land-based prepositioned assets are stored outdoors and are left relatively unprotected from elements that contribute to corrosion. When equipment was drawn for military operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2003, it was reported in good operating condition and not degraded by corrosion. Most of this equipment had been stored in humidity-controlled facilities. However, whereas all Marine Corps prepositioned assets are stored in humidity-controlled facilities, the Army currently stores a significant amount of its land-based prepositioned assets outdoors. Under Army policy, the preferred method for storing prepositioned assets is in humidity-controlled facilities because outdoor storage makes equipment more susceptible to corrosion and increases maintenance requirements and costs. One Army study showed that sheltering equipment in a humidity-controlled facility had a return on investment, at minimum, of $8 for every $1 invested. In South Korea, the Army has recently completed an intensive effort to repair prepositioned assets and correct some long-standing problems, but almost one-third of the assets continue to be stored outside. Similarly, as the Army reconstitutes its prepositioned equipment in Southwest Asia, thousands of Army equipment items in Kuwait are stored outdoors in harsh environmental conditions. Army officials cited competing funding priorities and other factors as reasons for not providing indoor storage for all land-based prepositioned assets. However, temporary shelters may be a feasible option to address immediate storage needs. The Army has used temporary shelters and humidity-controlled storage for some prepositioned assets. Although the Army requires corrosion-related data collection for equipment items and Marine Corps officials believe them to be beneficial, data that could help reduce corrosion of prepositioned assets are not available. They are not available because the services consider this information to be a low priority and do not systematically collect it. Without these data, the services are not in a position to identify causes of corrosion, support efforts to more effectively reduce corrosion, and achieve long-term cost savings. Army and Marine Corps documents include information on the maintenance condition, actions, and costs for prepositioned equipment, but provide little data on corrosion. While cost data are limited, the services have estimated that about 25 percent of overall equipment maintenance costs are corrosion related and perhaps as much as one-third of these costs could be reduced through more effective corrosion prevention and mitigation. An Army review of maintenance records for about 2,000 pieces of prepositioned stock in South Korea found that $8.7 million (31 percent) of the estimated $28 million spent to restore this equipment was used to address corrosion. The Army has had previous success using corrosion data on non-prepositioned equipment programs to support corrosion prevention and mitigation.

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 reduce the impact of corrosion on prepositioned assets and support additional corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to require the collection of corrosion-related data and use these data to support additional corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD and Marine Corps corrosion officials, the Marine Corps Corrosion Prevention and Control (CPAC) Program established procedures for obtaining and assessing corrosion-related data on equipment. Specifically, CPAC developed and is using a Corrosion Assessment Checklist that includes obtaining corrosion data on Marine Corps equipment, including prepositioned assets. According to DOD and Army corrosion officials, the Army has instructed and trained maintenance personnel to collect and track corrosion-related data of weapons systems, including prepositioned equipment. CPAC officials told us that the sustained use of the checklist will eventually lead to having a comprehensive data base that includes corrosion-related data. These officials also told us that this additional data will be used to help support the funding of increased corrosion prevention and control projects. These actions meet the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To reduce the impact of corrosion on prepositioned assets and support additional corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to collect corrosion-related data, as required in existing Army regulations, and use these data to support additional corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD and Army corrosion officials, the Army has instructed and trained maintenance personnel to collect and track corrosion-related data of weapons systems, including prepositioned equipment. Specifically, Army Aviation and Missile Command personnel are instructed to enter a failure code 170 (when corrosion is the root-cause for failure or required maintenance),when appropriate, into the Army Maintenance Management System. Army corrosion officials said that sustained use of the code at this and other Army commands will result in having a comprehensive corrosion-related data associated with weapons systems. These officials also told us that this additional data will be used to help support the funding of increased corrosion prevention and control projects. This action meets the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To reduce the impact of corrosion on prepositioned assets and support additional corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to examine the feasibility of using temporary shelters, including humidity-controlled facilities, to store land-based prepositioned assets currently stored outdoors, and if such use is determined to be feasible, to take appropriate actions to implement the use of shelters to the maximum extent possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Army Corrosion Prevention Office, the Army has procured additional temporary shelters to house prepositioned assets that were previously stored outdoors. According to Army corrosion officials, the shelters were procured to house prepositioned equipment located in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Charleston, South Carolina. Furthermore, the Army was evaluating the expanded use humidity-controlled facilities for its propositioned assets. Army corrosion officials told us that financial and operations analyses were done to support the procurement of temporary shelters at these locations. According to the DOD corrosion office, these actions were taken to address findings and recommendations in the GAO report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to specify the department's planned actions, milestones, and resources for completing an Army feasibility study on the use of temporary shelters to store land-based prepositioned assets and for collecting and using Army and Marine Corps corrosion-related data to support additional corrosion prevention and mitigation efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army and Marine Corps have taken actions that satisfy the intent of GAO's recommendations; therefore, the Under Secretary of Defense no longer needs to develop a plan to ensure these recommendations are implemented.

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