Airlift Requirements:

Commercial Freighters Can Help Meet Requirements at Greatly Reduced Costs

NSIAD-94-209: Published: Jul 11, 1994. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Defense's (DOD) airlift requirements, focusing on the Air Force's cost and operational effectiveness analysis (COEA) for its C-17 aircraft program.

GAO found that: (1) although DOD concluded that the C-17 fleet was the preferred choice for meeting its airlift requirements, its analysis made three assumptions that favored the C-17 and significantly reduced the cost-effectiveness of proposed alternatives; (2) the C-17 was designed to replace aging aircraft, deliver cargo to small, forward airfields, and provide other operational advantages over existing aircraft; (3) the study's assumptions about airfield availability were not realistic; (4) the Air Force's utilization rate assumptions credited C-17 aircraft with undemonstrated utilization rate advantages; (5) DOD operating and support costs estimates were not valid because it no longer plans to use the C-17 in place of the C-130 for routine intratheater deliveries; (6) COEA was not intended to be used to assess the minimum number of aircraft needed to fulfill unique military requirements; and (7) when the three questionable assumptions are adjusted for, a mixed fleet becomes more cost-effective and capable of meeting military airlift requirements.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since the report was issued, DOD has begun several studies of airlift requirements which will make the COEA results no longer directly applicable. Subsequent GAO work is addressing changes in the COEA and DOD's planned COEA update (the Strategic Airlift Force Mix Analysis).

    Matter: Congress should not consider the COEA as a basis for authorizing 120 C-17, since the minimum number of C-17 needed to fulfill military requirements has yet to be determined.


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