Defense Inventory:

Management of Surplus Usable Aircraft Parts Can Be Improved

NSIAD-98-7: Published: Oct 2, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed selected aspects of the Department of Defense's (DOD) disposal process, focusing on whether: (1) DOD destroyed, during the disposal process, usable aircraft parts that did not have military technology and flight safety implications; and (2) the military services recalled aircraft parts from the disposal process to preclude unnecessary purchases or repairs.

GAO noted that: (1) management of the aircraft parts disposal process can be improved; (2) DOD destroyed some usable aircraft parts and sold them as scrap; (3) these parts were in new or repairable condition and did not have military technology or flight safety implications; (4) the parts could possibly have been sold intact at higher than scrap prices; (5) this situation occurred for several reasons; (6) for example, disposal offices destroyed parts because the demilitarization codes the military services had assigned to the parts were inaccurate; (7) the codes indicated the parts contained military technology when they did not; (8) GAO work showed that the Oklahoma City disposal office destroyed 62 of 71 sample items, even though they did not have technology implications, because the assigned codes required their destruction; (9) personnel responsible for assigning and reviewing the codes had not been sufficiently trained and guidance was not adequate; (10) in addition, policies and practices designed to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized release of parts with military technology and flight safety implications did not distinguish between parts with or without such implications; (11) parts without military technology and flight safety concerns were destroyed along with parts that had these characteristics; (12) GAO work also showed that DOD could have purchased or repaired fewer aircraft parts if it would have recalled the needed parts from the disposal process; (13) for example, the Army could have reduced current and planned purchases by about $200,000 by using Cobra helicopter parts scheduled for destruction; (14) DOD regulations require the military services to know which parts they have placed in the disposal process; (15) however, interface problems between service and disposal office computer systems precluded the services from knowing what parts were at the disposal offices; (16) the military services had not instituted alternative ways to obtain this information on a routine basis; (17) problems with the disposal process are likely not unique to the three disposal yards GAO visited because DOD, military service, and Defense Logistics Agency policies and procedures generally apply to activities being performed at all locations; and (18) GAO past reviews and DOD internal studies have identified similar problems at these and other locations over the past 10 years or earlier.

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 prevent the destruction of usable aircraft parts, the Secretary of Defense should provide guidance on selecting appropriate demilitarization codes that includes the specific details necessary to make appropriate decisions. The guidance could take the form of the draft demilitarization code assignment worksheet being used by the Air Force.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed that a code assignment sheet may be useful in assigning demilitarization codes. The Air Force officially implemented a code assignment checklist in July 1998, but the checklist has not been implemented DOD-wide. The Defense Logistics Agency has proposed a DOD-wide code assignment worksheet but the services have not accepted it. DLA plans to publish policy (DOD 4160.21-M-1) making use of worksheets optional. The manual is being updated, but the update was delayed until November 2002.

    Recommendation: To prevent the destruction of usable aircraft parts, the Secretary of Defense should exclude commercial-type parts and nonsignificant military unique parts that do not have military technology and flight safety implications from policies and practices intended to prevent an inadvertent sale of parts with these implications. The Secretary should work closely with the private sector to identify and list commercial-type aircraft parts and nonsignificant military unique parts the private sector needs and require the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Offices (DRMOs) to check this list before destroying the parts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although DOD partially agreed with the recommendation, it did not indicate that additional actions would be taken. DOD noted that challenge programs are available if parts are miscoded. DOD also noted that it previously attempted to obtain private-sector input but the response was minimal. Follow-up revealed that DOD plans no further action.

    Recommendation: To prevent the destruction of usable aircraft parts, the Secretary of Defense should require the Army to complete its validation of the demilitarization codes assigned to Cobra helicopter parts so commercial-type parts and nonsignificant military unique parts can be sold.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Validation of codes for Cobra parts was completed in June 2001.

    Recommendation: To prevent the destruction of usable aircraft parts, the Secretary of Defense should establish milestones for correcting computer interface problems that preclude the military services from having visibility of parts located in DRMOs and from following regulations that require parts to be returned to the supply system when needed to prevent unnecessary procurements or repairs. In the interim, the Secretary should institute alternative ways to obtain this information on a routine basis. For example, aircraft parts available at DRMOs can be identified by telephone calls, the Internet, or physical inspection.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that the visibility of disposal assets is available DOD-wide via the Internet. As more commercial practices are implemented, online visibility and access via the Web may negate the need for correcting the computer interface problems addressed in the recommendation. DOD stated that impediments that would preclude the military services from having visibility of parts located at the disposal offices have been removed through DOD actions.

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