Air Force Aircraft:

Reorganizing Mobility Aircraft Units Could Reduce Costs

NSIAD-98-55: Published: Jan 21, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 21, 1998.

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GAO assessed the cost-effectiveness of organizing the Air Force's airlift and refueling force into fewer, larger-sized squadrons and wings, focusing on: (1) the effect that reorganization may have on mission accomplishment; (2) whether costs could be reduced through redistributing aircraft among fewer wings; and (3) five possible options for redistributing C-130 and KC-135 aircraft among fewer wings at lower operating costs.

GAO noted that: (1) the Air Force could reduce costs and meet peacetime and wartime commitments if it reorganized its C-130 and KC-135 aircraft into larger-sized squadrons and wings at fewer locations; (2) these savings would primarily result from fewer people being needed to operate these aircraft; (3) for the reorganization options GAO developed, up to $209 million dollars could be saved annually; (4) creating larger-sized squadrons and wings would still allow the Air Force to accomplish its peacetime and wartime missions with the existing number of aircraft; (5) in peacetime deployments, reserve component C-130 and KC-135 personnel do not participate as part of entire squadrons or wings but rather as individual volunteers; (6) thus, creating larger-sized squadrons and wings should not compromise these missions; (7) for wartime deployments, requirements for C-130 and KC-135 aircraft are typically stated by the number of aircraft rather than by squadrons or wings; (8) moreover, war plans where existing flying squadrons are assigned can be changed to accomodate larger-sized squadrons; (9) specific reserve component wings are not usually assigned in existing war plans; (10) thus, the impact of reducing them would be minimal; (11) redistributing the reserve component's C-130 and KC-135 existing aircraft into fewer, larger-sized squadrons and wings would reduce operating costs; (12) for example, redistributing 16 C-130 aircraft from two 8-aircraft wings to one 16-aircraft wing would save about $11 million annually, primarily from personnel savings; (13) GAO developed five options to illustrate the kind of savings that can be achieved by creating larger-sized squadrons; (14) these savings range from about $51 million to $209 million annually; and (15) sufficient personnel could be recruited and most locations' facilities could be inexpensively expanded to accomodate the unit sizes in GAO's options.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur pending legislative authority to close and realign bases. According to DOD, until Congress is receptive to such action, it is premature to develop a plan along the lines discussed in the report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to organize the C-130 and KC-135 aircraft in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve into larger wings at fewer locations and seek congressional support for the plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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