Defense Infrastructure:

Observations on Aviation Training Consolidation and Expansion Plans

NSIAD-99-143: Published: Jul 12, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to reduce the infrastructure that supports initial pilot training, focusing on: (1) DOD's prior efforts to reduce aircraft training infrastructure; (2) plans for expanding pilot training capacity; and (3) the likelihood of further consolidations.

GAO noted that: (1) little consolidation activity followed a 1993 directive by the Secretary of Defense that required the services to consolidate initial fixed-wing aircraft training and examine the potential for consolidating initial helicopter training at Fort Rucker, Alabama; (2) consolidation efforts were limited to phasing in a common primary training aircraft, combining follow-on flight training into four common tracks, and exchanging instructors and students; (3) no further consolidation of fixed-wing undergraduate pilot training or rotary-wing undergraduate helicopter pilot training was implemented; (4) the Air Force is expanding its capabilities for undergraduate pilot training because it projects shortages through at least fiscal year 2007 and, therefore, it has increased its estimates of the number of new pilots it must train; (5) the Air Force is increasing its training capabilities by activating additional squadrons at three of its existing pilot training bases and establishing an additional undergraduate pilot training squadron at an operational base; (6) increased navigator requirements have also led the Air Force to expand its capabilities to provide navigator training; (7) cross-service consolidations, where feasible, can reduce excess capacity and increase operating efficiencies; (8) prior base realignment and closure (BRAC) rounds have served to reduce the number of bases used to provide aviation training; (9) however, efforts to achieve such cross-service consolidations as part of the BRAC process have not been successful; (10) further consolidation of aviation training between the services may be difficult to accomplish without authority from Congress for additional BRAC rounds; (11) should such authority be granted, DOD would likely examine the potential for cross-service consolidations in a number of areas, including aviation training, as it did in prior BRAC rounds; and (12) such an examination in the aviation training area would need to address a number of barriers to consolidation that exist, including: (a) the services' differing approaches to their training; and (b) the interrelationships among training approaches, personnel management, and career development strategies.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has concurred with, and has implemented the recommendation. In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, Congress authorized a round of defense base realignments and closures beginning in 2005. DOD has begun its work for that round and DOD officials have told GAO that aviation training is one of many functional areas that is being examined on a cross-service basis for potential consolidation or increased efficiencies. Any DOD-proposed recommendations regarding aviation training will not be known until May 2005, when DOD submits its proposed realignment and closure recommendations to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

    Recommendation: Should Congress authorize additional BRAC rounds, barriers to further aviation training consolidation should be examined; should they be found too difficult to overcome, the Secretary of Defense should require the services to consider other opportunities for optimizing efficiencies at bases retained for aviation training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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