Alleged Contractor Deficiencies in Modifying Minuteman Missile System

PSAD-78-124: Published: Jul 7, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 1978.

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Quality assurance deficiencies were alleged in the Air Force program to modify Minuteman silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The principal Air Force contract is with the Boeing Company. The allegations relate mainly to work performed by the subcontractor, H.C. Smith Construction, and involve substandard welds, routine acceptance of work not meeting specifications, inadequate testing and use of test results, lack of qualified inspectors, nonperformance of required visual inspections, and the implications of these problems on national security. Boeing encountered quality problems in the welding processes that H.C. Smith Construction used in the modification process. The Air Force accepted 30 silos before it discovered the weld problem, and these silos are now suspected of having substandard welds. There was no evidence that the Air Force routinely accepted work reported as defective by its inspectors. If the Air Force knowingly accepted work not in conformance with contract specifications, acceptance was justified on the basis of economic and technical merits. The contract specified visual weld inspection only, with no routine requirements for physical testing. Both Boeing and the Air Force used noncertified weld inspectors; until recently, the Air Force provided little or no technical training to its weld inspectors. There is no indication that any of these deficiencies will have any significant effect on system effectiveness or national security.

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