C-17 Aircraft:

Cost and Performance Issues

NSIAD-95-26: Published: Jan 26, 1995. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1995.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) C-17 program, focusing on: (1) the aircraft's ability to achieve its original program requirements; and (2) whether further procurement of C-17 aircraft is justified.

GAO found that: (1) although the C-17 was intended to operate routinely in an intratheater shuttle role, perform direct delivery missions to forward airfields, airlift substantial amounts of outsize cargo, provide low-level parachute extractions, and perform strategic airdrops, it has not been able to meet its original operational requirements and will not be used as intended; (2) DOD concluded that the C-17 fleet was its preferred choice for meeting its military airlift requirements because of significant utilization and delivery advantages; (3) recent DOD cost and operational effectiveness analyses showed that a mixed fleet comprised of 40 C-17 aircraft and 64 commercial freighters could be more effective and procured at cost savings of at least $10.7 billion when compared to a fleet of 120 C-17 aircraft; and (4) the 120 C-17 fleet is not the most cost-effective way to meet intratheater military airlift requirements.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: During consideration of the FY 1997 Defense Authorization and Appropriations bills, Congress approved the decision to acquire 120 C-17s and authorized a multiyear contract to complete the procurement.

    Matter: In light of changes in the C-17 intended role, its less than anticipated performance, the results of DOD cost and operational effectiveness analysis and continued program cost growth, Congress should not support the C-17 program beyond the minimum number needed to fulfill unique military requirements. That number has not yet been determined but is the subject of several ongoing studies.


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