Readiness of U.S. Air Forces in Europe--Selected Aspects and Issues

LCD-78-430A: Published: Feb 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 16, 1979.

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GAO made a review of the readiness of the U.S. Air Forces located in Europe from September 1977 to April 1978. Matters which need to be further addressed to improve the effectiveness and readiness of U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) are discussed. Previously, GAO reported to Congress in 1973 that the U.S. Air Forces in Europe were not fully ready due to such factors as shortages of war reserve materiels and personnel and inadequate training facilities. In addition, information in readiness reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff was sometimes inaccurate and did not include all pertinent readiness factors. Some problems, such as personnel shortages, have been alleviated. On the other hand, increases in the overall number of Soviet and Warsaw Pact aircraft, along with improvements in their range and payload, have made air bases and materiel stockpiles in Europe more vulnerable to attack with less warning time.

The Air Force criteria for reporting aircraft readiness in the Force Status and Identity Report (FORSTAT) do not emphasize the data needed for decisionmaking by the national command authorities if there is less warning time than planned. Actual operational rates for USAFE aircraft vary greatly among USAFE wings. USAFE does not emphasize oversight of the effectiveness of its wings maintenance programs in relation to day-to-day operational ready rates. The War Reserve Materiel (WRM) status of USAFE raises questions about Air Force priorities and reserve allocations. Some of the important issues include: the seemingly greater emphasis placed on developing and procuring new aircraft as opposed to supporting these aircraft; and the benefits to be gained by additional deployments of aircraft to Europe when USAFE cannot adequately support those it now has and will not have key items for future aircraft. USAFE still falls short of its total authorized strength for aircrews because sufficient numbers of pilots and navigators have not been assigned to primary aircrew positions.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should request the Joint Chiefs of Staff in their ongoing study to evaluate the alternatives for making aircraft readiness reporting more useful and revise readiness reporting criteria to meet the needs of the national command authorities. The Joint Chiefs of Staff should assess the implications of deploying Tactical Air Command squadrons from the U.S. to operating bases in Europe when adequate wartime support is not available. The Secretary of the Air Force should: undertake an assessment of the status of war reserve stock for USAFE; prepare plans to correct shortages of war reserve materiel; ensure that resources are appropriately allocated based on readiness priorities; and consider reallocating assets from other Air Force commands to USAFE. The Secretary of the Air Force should direct that an evaluation be made of the need for war reserve spares mobility packages by Air Force squadrons in Europe. The Commander in Chief of the USAFE should: implement economical solutions, such as raising requisition priorities for units in Europe that do not result in additional requirements for inventory levels; and make an analysis of Air Force resources and readiness that considers acceptable levels of readiness achievement and identifies shortfalls and funding priorities.

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