Air Force Supply:

Management Actions Create Spare Parts Shortages and Operations Problems

NSIAD/AIMD-99-77: Published: Apr 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the Air Force Supply Management Activity Group in meeting its military customers needs, focusing on the: (1) extent and impact of military customers not receiving aircraft spare parts when needed; and (2) reasons why parts were not always available when needed.

GAO noted that: (1) over the last several years, the effectiveness of the supply activity group in meeting customer needs has declined; (2) key Air Force indicator reports used to monitor supply effectiveness showed that major aircraft not mission capable due to supply problems increased from 6.4 percent in fiscal year (FY) 1990 to 13.9 percent in FY 1998; (3) GAO specifically reviewed B-1B, F-16, and C-5 aircraft supply problems and found that these problems were causing inefficient maintenance actions, excessive use of spares designated to support deployed operations, and aircrews to be not fully trained; (4) for example, at two major commands, significant personnel resources were used to remove parts from B-1B, F-16, and C-5 aircraft and to put those same parts on other aircraft in order to keep them mission capable; (5) while the total magnitude of the problem is not known, records at two Air Force commands showed maintenance personnel time involved in this practice equated to about 43 people working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 2 years; (6) spares packages purchased to support deployed operations were being used to meet day-to-day operational needs; (7) this was particularly the case for the C-5 and B-1B aircraft where usage of items from the packages increased by 14.2 and 13.5 percent, respectively, over a 2-year period; (8) B-1B and F-16 reports show that only 83 percent of their peacetime flying hour training program was accomplished and Air Force officials cited supply and maintenance problems as major causes; (9) as a result, one squadron reported that some of its aircraft commanders, pilots, and weapons system officers were not combat mission ready; (10) GAO also analyzed selected parts that were most frequently causing supply problems for the B-1B, F-16, and C-5 aircraft; (11) the key reasons contributing to supply problems were: (a) weaknesses in forecasting inventory requirements and executing inventory procurement and repair budgets; (b) not achieving Agile Logistics goals; and (c) untimely repair by depot maintenance activities; (12) the inventory forecasting error caused a $500-million shortfall in funding in the FY 1997 supply activity group's budget; (13) the Air Force also reduced the supply activity group's budget by $948 million between fiscal years 1997 and 1999 to reflect Agile Logistics efficiency goals; (14) however, since these efficiency goals were not achieved, fewer items than projected were available for sale to customers; and (15) the Air Force has studies underway to improve supply effectiveness and has increased funding for the purchase and repair of spares.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force concurred with the recommendation and has taken action to improve its supply parts availability. First, AFMC completed a comprehensive review of the spare parts problem that determined the root causes of the parts shortages and provided recommendations to eliminate or reduce the causes. Second, AFMC required the Air Logistics Centers to use metrics to isolate problem parts. Third, AFMC is using a dedicated module within its Depot Data Warehouse to capture and provide visibility over parts shortage data, with the overall purpose of obtaining a standard method of collecting, reporting and analyzing parts shortage data.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should direct the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) Commander to implement a comprehensive program to address depot maintenance activities' awaiting parts (AWP) problems. As a minimum, the AFMC Commander should develop: (1) a strategy for identifying and correcting the underlying causes of the problem; (2) a systematic process for identifying and focusing management attention on the most critical AWP problem items; (3) a standardized approach that item managers can use to obtain and analyze data on AWP problems; and (4) more reliable data on the number and type of component parts that will be needed to repair broken repairable items.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force


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