Defense Acquisition:

Acquisition Plans for Training Aircraft Should Be Reevaluated

NSIAD-97-172: Published: Sep 18, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 18, 1997.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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GAO reviewed: (1) the Air Force's and Navy's calculations of the quantity of Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) aircraft needed to meet training requirements; (2) the impact of the Department of Defense's (DOD) procurement schedule on the aircraft's unit price; and (3) service efforts to design the JPATS cockpit to accommodate female pilots.

GAO noted that: (1) the Air Force and the Navy used inconsistent data to calculate the number of JPATS aircraft required for primary pilot training; (2) the Air Force used an attrition rate that was twice as high as the historical attrition rate for its existing primary trainer and the Navy used an attrition rate that differs from the rate that DOD now cites as accurate; (3) until inconsistencies in the mission capable rates and attrition rates are resolved, it is unclear how many JPATS aircraft should be procured; (4) DOD's procurement plan for acquiring JPATS aircraft does not take full advantage of the most favorable prices available in the contract; (5) for example, the plan schedules 18 aircraft to be procured during fiscal year (FY) 1998 and 12 aircraft during FY 1999, a total of 30 aircraft; (6) however, GAO found that these 30 aircraft could be procured more economically if 16 rather than 18 aircraft are procured in FY 1998 and 14 rather than 12 aircraft are procured in FY 1999; (7) this approach would save $1.36 million over the 2 fiscal years and permit more operational testing and evaluation to be completed; (8) furthermore, the procurement plan does not schedule a sufficient number of JPATS aircraft for procurement in fiscal year 2000 to achieve lower prices that are available under the terms of the contract; (9) because concerns had been raised about the ability of JPATS aircraft to accommodate female pilots, Congress directed DOD to study and determine the appropriate percentage of the female pilot population that the aircraft should physically accommodate; (10) based on its studies, DOD established the requirement that the JPATS aircraft be able to accommodate 80 percent of the eligible female pilot population; (11) pilot size determines the percentage of pilots that can be accommodated in the JPATS cockpit; (12) planned cockpit dimensions are expected to accommodate about 97 percent of the eligible female pilot population; and (13) to permit safe ejection from the aircraft, the ejection seat minimum pilot weight is 116 pounds, which is expected to accommodate 80 percent of the eligible female pilot population.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation. DOD stated that data used to estimate attrition and mission capable rates (leading to calculations of requirements) considered planned improvements in technology and reliability and reflected use of aircraft in a way that was operationally practical and affordable. DOD believes that it is premature to revise estimated attrition or mission capable rates at this time, and actual data will not be available for years.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should determine the appropriate attrition rates and mission capable rates to calculate JPATS requirements, taking into account the planned improvements in JPATS safety, reliability, and maintainability, and recalculate the requirements as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it would ideally take advantage of procurements at the most economical rates, but that limited resources generally make this unachievable. DOD did not indicate that it would change the procurement plan for JPATS. DOD said that, in the context of managing resources, it will balance the unit price advantages of buying higher annual JPATS quantities with the advantages associated with other uses of scarce resources. DOD's procurement plan for fiscal year 2000 increased to 29, the number of JPATS aircraft to be procured as compared to 26 that had been planned at the time of the GAO report. The Congress further increased the quantity to be procured to 41. Quantities planned for fiscal year 2001 were also increased.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Air Force to revise the JPATS procurement plan to take better advantage of price advantages in the contract, and upon successful completion of operational test and evaluation, acquire JPATS aircraft at the most economical target quantity unit prices provided by the contract.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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