Strategic Bombers:

Logistics Decisions Impede B-1B Readiness and Supportability

NSIAD-89-129: Published: May 19, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's acquisition and development of the B-1B strategic bomber, focusing on: (1) the achievement of readiness objectives; (2) parts shortages and maintenance problems; (3) impending logistical challenges; and (4) opportunities to enhance logistics management.

GAO found that the Air Force: (1) accepted the final bomber 2 months ahead of schedule, although it did not meet initial operating goals or expected operational readiness capabilities; (2) could not place bombers on alert at the rate its management directive established; (3) did not integrate logistics into early acquisition and made decisions that impeded or complicated supply and maintenance, resulting in its inability to meet operational readiness targets; (4) faced significant parts and maintenance problems that required extraordinary effort to support operations, seriously limited aircraft availability, and forced it to rely extensively on use of parts from grounded aircraft; (5) required $2.6 billion for operation and support costs until 1994, when it expected aircraft to achieve mature operations; (6) will face such management responsibilities as providing organic maintenance, addressing logistical support requirements, improving reliability and maintainability, and increasing contractor engineering support; and (7) did not conduct a logistics readiness and support acquisition review that could have comprehensively assessed readiness and supportability needs. GAO believes that the Air Force's emphasis on production schedules and program costs resulted in trade-offs that adversely affected logistics support.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although DOD agreed, DMR has recommended expanding the scope of Milestone IV so that it also includes the current Milestone V. DOD is implementing this recommendation. In lieu of the Milestone IV, a Strategic Systems Committee was convened on September 28, 1989 and addressed the same B-1B logistics issues that were to be discussed under Milestone IV.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should conduct a logistics readiness and support review of the B-1B.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: B-1B was not procured through the usual acquisition process and was exempt from the normal reviews for major weapon system acquisitions. DOD regulations establish a framework to monitor the progress towards achieving readiness and support goals during system acquisition. Therefore, it is the DOD position that additional emphasis on these goals is not warranted.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that decisionmakers establish and use visible and measurable interim operational readiness goals that can be applied to early operations of new systems, especially for systems in which cost and schedule are imperatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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