Air Force Aircraft:

Consolidating Fighter Squadrons Could Reduce Costs

NSIAD-96-82: Published: May 6, 1996. Publicly Released: May 6, 1996.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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GAO reviewed the cost-effectiveness of the Air Force's reconfiguration of F-15 and F-16 fighters into smaller squadrons, focusing on the consequences this might have on the Secretary of Defense's efforts to reduce defense infrastructure costs.

GAO found that: (1) while smaller 18-aircraft squadrons provide more deployment flexibility than 24-aircraft squadrons, the larger configuration provides enough deployment flexibility to meet the Air Force's needs; (2) the ability of squadron commanders to manage the personnel and tasks of 24-aircraft squadrons has not proved to be a problem; (3) the Air Force's decision to reduce squadron size from 24 to 18 aircraft was not based on organized analysis or documented studies; (4) using 24-aircraft squadrons instead of 18-aircraft squadrons could reduce costs; (5) by consolidating some existing F-15 and F-16 squadrons with other squadrons to better maximize base utilization, the Air Force could cost-effectively increase the number of 24-aircraft squadrons; (6) all 18-aircraft squadrons could return to their original size of 24 aircraft with little or no effort and expense; (7) if the Air Force consolidates its squadrons, it should keep aircraft with the similar modernization, mission characteristics, and engine types together; and (8) at least four alternatives exist to consolidate the Air Force's squadrons that could save between $25 million and $115 million annually.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force has consolidated, to some degree, fighter squadrons back to 24 aircraft per squadron as GAO recommended. Five additional squadron consolidations were planned for FY1999 and FY2000. These consolidations are estimated to save $23.5 million for each of fiscal years 1999 and 2000. DOD now considers the recommendation closed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, in his efforts to reduce the Department of Defense's infrastructure costs, should require the Secretary of the Air Force to develop an implementation plan to operate the Air Force's fighter force in larger, more cost-effective squadrons. If the Secretary of Defense believes that the plan could reduce costs, he should seek congressional support for it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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