Air Force Bombers:

Moving More B-1s to the Reserves Could Save Millions Without Reducing Mission Capability

NSIAD-98-64: Published: Feb 26, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1998.

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GAO reviewed the cost and operational implications of assigning more B-1 bombers to the reserve component, focusing on: (1) whether operational factors preclude greater reserve component participation in the B-1 mission; and (2) options for increasing the number of B-1s assigned to reserve component units and their effect on operations and costs.

GAO noted that: (1) Air Force active and reserve components consider essentially the same operational factors in determining whether a mission is suitable for the reserve component; (2) factors Air Force officials consider include: (a) overseas presence; (b) peacetime training; (c) mission response times; (d) personnel tempo; and (e) personnel recruiting; (3) GAO's assessment of these factors showed that they do not preclude assigning more B-1s to the reserve component; (4) B-1s are not based overseas, peacetime training can be scheduled around part-time reservists' civilian employment, reserve units could mobilize to meet mission response times, and personnel tempo rates for B-1 unit personnel do not exceed the Air Force's maximum desired standard; (5) however, the lack of availability of recruitable personnel in some locations limits where reserve units can operate; (6) if the Air Force were to assign more B-1s to the reserve component than are currently planned, the cost to operate the B-1 fleet could be reduced--without adversely affecting day-to-day peacetime training or critical wartime missions or closing any bases; (7) GAO developed six options for assigning more B-1s to the reserves; and (8) based on Congressional Budget Office cost savings projections and GAO's analysis of other one-time costs, GAO estimates that implementing these options could produce savings ranging from $87.1 million to $235.3 million during the last 5 years (1999-2003) of the current Future Years Defense Program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Currently, the Department of Defense (DOD) does not plan to place any more bombers in the reserve component. In June 2001, the Air Force announced that it planned to eliminate B-1B National Guard units in Georgia and Kansas, and leave all remaining B-1B aircraft in active units. However, GAO continues to believe that placing more B-1Bs in the reserve component is an option the Department of Defense should consider.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to prepare a plan to place more B-1s in the reserve component and seek congressional support for the plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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