Acquisition Reform:

Comparison of Army's Commercial Helicopter Buy and Private Sector Buys

NSIAD-95-54: Published: Mar 17, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1995.

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GAO reviewed the procedures the Army used to procure its New Training Helicopter (NTH), focusing on: (1) the differences between the Army's and private sector's procurement procedures for similar helicopters; (2) Army efforts to streamline the NTH procurement; and (3) potential improvements that could be achieved from acquisition reform efforts.

GAO found that: (1) the Army's acquisition of the NTH was vastly different than private sector companies' acquisition of similar helicopters; (2) specifically, the Army's acquisition took longer, involved more people, and generated significantly more paperwork; (3) key reasons for these differences were that the Army's procurement included: (a) the need to comply with a myriad of laws and regulations; (b) more extensive and less flexible system requirements; and (c) numerous documentation requirements for the proposal and award process, including contingencies such as bid protests; (4) nevertheless, in procuring the NTH, the Army streamlined its acquisition process somewhat and used more commercial-type practices; (5) for example, it adapted a commercial helicopter for the NTH rather than pursuing a lengthy development program, deleted a number of data requests and contract clauses from the request for proposals, and used commercial standards in lieu of military specifications and standards; (6) in addition, the Army requested fewer program evaluations and other documents than are normally required in the acquisition process (these include functional areas such as testing, safety, and logistics); (7) GAO believes the Army could have made further improvements through quicker approval of deviations and waivers and additional reductions in contractors' paperwork requirements; (8) however, to significantly reduce the differences between the Army's and commercial sector's acquisitions, further reforms, such as those proposed by the Secretary of Defense and called for in the recently enacted Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, need to be implemented; (9) for example, the act should significantly expand and simplify the procurement of commercial items because it stipulates a preference for such items and eliminates the applicability of certain laws and clauses previously required; (10) GAO believes, therefore, that the Army's NTH acquisition could be used as a baseline against which further improvements that might result from acquisition reform initiatives could be measured; and (11) however, for combat or other missions that can only be satisfied by unique development efforts, the NTH would likely not provide an appropriate baseline.

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