Armored Commercial Vehicles:
DOD Has Procurement Guidance, but Army Could Take Actions to Enhance Inspections and Oversight
GAO-17-513: Published: Jun 9, 2017. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 2017.
DOD uses armored commercial vehicles to transport American citizens and service members through dangerous areas. These are normal cars and SUVs that are taken apart, armored, and reassembled to blend in with local traffic.
These vehicles protect passengers' lives just as military tactical vehicles do. However, unlike tactical vehicles, they are not procured in acquisition programs with rigorous testing requirements.
We found that DOD generally complied with safety- and quality-related guidance, but the Army could improve its vehicle inspections during armoring.
Armored Commercial Passenger-Carrying Vehicle (left) Compared to Military Tactical Vehicle (right)
Photos of an armored commercial passenger vehicle and a military tactical vehicle.
What GAO Found
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the defense components in GAO's review—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Defense Intelligence Agency, the largest buyer of armored commercial passenger-carrying vehicles (ACPV) in DOD—have a plethora of guidance related to ACPV procurement. This guidance is similar to that used by the Department of State, which also procures a large number of these vehicles (see figure). DOD officials GAO spoke with cited the Federal Acquisition Regulation as the capstone guidance for procurement activities. For DOD, guidance also exists department-wide and at the individual component levels. Guidance covers numerous aspects of ACPV acquisitions, including procurement methods, protection levels, inspection and acceptance, warranties, and oversight.
Armored Commercial Passenger-Carrying Vehicle (left) Compared to Tactical Vehicle (right).
ACPV-related contract actions for the selected DOD components generally complied with guidance, policies, and procedures for ensuring the safety and quality of ACPVs and included contract language that met minimum armoring standards. However, opportunities exist for the Army to improve its processes for in-progress inspections—inspections that occur as the vehicle is being armored—as the Army instead depended primarily on the vendors' quality control processes. GAO's review of contract actions used to procure ACPVs for selected DOD components between 2011 and 2015 showed that in-progress inspections were conducted, with the exception of the Army, which conducted such inspections for only a single contract action. Without in-progress inspections, the Army is accepting risk in the safety of its vehicles. Further, with the exception of the Army, all the DOD components have a central office and mechanisms for reporting ACPV information. This decentralized approach leaves the Army with an incomplete picture of various ACPV-related matters, including procurement and inspection methods. Federal standards for internal control call for mechanisms that allow for oversight intended to help an organization, such as the Army, ensure compliance with armoring and inspection standards. Without a designated central point of contact, the Army may face challenges for reporting ACPV information to DOD officials responsible for overseeing the implementation of armoring and inspection standards department-wide.
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD uses armored military vehicles for combat and operational support, but it also uses armored commercial vehicles to transport military and civilian personnel in areas that pose a threat to their safety. These vehicles differ in many ways, including mission and appearance.
The House Armed Services Committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 contained a provision for GAO to assess multiple aspects of DOD's procurement practices for ACPVs. This report assesses (1) DOD's guidance and procedures for acquiring ACPVs and how they compare with those at the Department of State; and (2) the extent to which selected DOD components adhere to guidance and procedures for ensuring the safety and quality of ACPVs.
To conduct this work, GAO analyzed policies, procedures, and regulations that govern aspects of acquiring, armoring, inspecting, and managing ACPVs; interviewed DOD and State Department officials; and compared armoring standards DOD components—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Defense Intelligence Agency—use for ACPVs against minimally acceptable protection standards. GAO reviewed contract actions for selected DOD components between 2011 and 2015.
What GAO Recommends
The Secretary of Defense should require the Army to conduct in-progress inspections and designate a central point of contact for ACPV information. DOD concurred with the recommendations.
For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recommendations for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation. On August 28, 2017, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, sent a memorandum to the Secretary of the Army that directed the Army to conduct in-progress inspections at vendor facilities. On December 5, 2017, the Army notified the Under Secretary that the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command is implementing the in-progress inspections.
Recommendation: To help ensure that ACPV armoring and quality standards are met, that evolving department and component policies are consistent, and that they are consistently applied, the Secretary of Defense should, until the department approves and implements the updated armoring and inspection standards, direct the Secretary of the Army to conduct in-progress inspections at the armoring vendor's facility for each procurement.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation. On August 28, 2017, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, sent a memorandum to the Secretary of the Army that directed the Army to designate a central point of information requests pertaining to these vehicles. On December 5, 2017, the Army notified the Under Secretary that it had assigned a central point of contact for collecting and reporting such vehicle information.
Recommendation: To help ensure that ACPV armoring and quality standards are met, that evolving department and component policies are consistent, and that they are consistently applied, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to designate a central point of contact for collecting and reporting ACPV information to facilitate Defense Intelligence Agency's oversight of armoring and inspection standards in these contracts.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense