Audit Report

06-27-2017
Acquisition Processes and Contract Management
Audit of the Training and Airframe Evaluations for the H-60 Black Hawk Helicopter (Project No. D2016-D000AT-0214.000)
DODIG-2017-096
     

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Objective

We determined whether the U.S. Army (Army) effectively managed its modernization of the H-60 Black Hawk (H-60) helicopter fleet. Specifically, we reviewed the Army’s H-60 new equipment training strategy and airframe condition evaluations.

Background

The H-60 helicopter is used by the active duty Army, U.S. Army National Guard (Guard), and the U.S. Army Reserve (Reserve). According to Project Manager Utility Helicopters officials, the modernized fleet will consist of 1,375 H-60M helicopters and 760 H-60V helicopters by FY 2035. The H-60M helicopter is the newest helicopter in the H-60 fleet with a digital cockpit and autopilot capabilities. The Army is developing the H-60V helicopters by upgrading the H-60L analog cockpit to a digital cockpit. The H-60V cockpits are expected to be visually identical to the H-60M cockpits and allow an H-60M pilot to fly an H-60V helicopter with limited additional training.

New equipment training provides H-60 pilots with information about the helicopter’s use and support requirements. Airframe condition evaluations are annual reviews of the structural parts of the H-60 helicopter. Army policy requires all H-60 helicopters to be evaluated annually for structural defects, unless valid exemptions exist.

Findings

The Army did not provide adequate funding and training for H-60 pilots on the new equipment. This occurred because Army officials did not agree which Army organization was responsible for funding and conducting H-60 new equipment training. The Army will need $152.9 million more than it has budgeted to provide new equipment training for a total of 1,390 H-60 pilots from FY 2018 through FY 2035. If no action is taken, the Guard will have a shortage of 160 trained H-60 pilots by FY 2026.

Additionally, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command officials did not effectively manage airframe condition evaluations for the H-60 fleet. During the annual evaluation period from March 1, 2016, through February 28, 2017, the Army did not conduct an airframe condition evaluation, as required by Army regulation and policy, for 460 of 2,098 H-60 helicopters. This occurred because U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command officials did not provide adequate oversight of the H-60 airframe condition evaluations. Specifically, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command officials did not require an evaluation for all H-60 helicopters or verify that all exemptions were valid, coordinate with unit commanders to ensure all H-60 helicopters were available for evaluation, and require evaluations of H-60 helicopters that were less than 3 years old. Evaluators identified safety problems with some H-60 helicopters that required the unit commander to ground (restrict flying) those helicopters. However, the unit commander did not always allow evaluators to finish the evaluation of additional helicopters because he did not want to ground more helicopters if additional safety problems were identified. As a result, Army pilots and crew could be flying H-60 helicopters with unidentified structural defects, which could impact the life and safety of the helicopter and its crew. Furthermore, Army officials may select the wrong helicopters for maintenance, modernization, or retirement.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Vice Chief of Staff, Army, provide training capacity for new equipment training to all pilots on H-60M and H-60V helicopters. In addition, we recommend that the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) require the Project Management Utility Helicopters to fund H-60M and H-60V new equipment training until all new equipment has been fielded. We also recommend that the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command:

  • determine which helicopters did not receive an evaluation during an evaluation period and ensure that those helicopters receive evaluations during the next evaluation period;
  • coordinate with U.S. Army Forces Command to communicate to all H-60 unit commanders that they are required to comply with applicable airframe condition evaluation guidance;
  • require the airframe condition evaluation teams to document a unit commander’s refusal to make a helicopter available for evaluation and report that refusal to the Commander, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command; and
  • coordinate with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center to determine whether helicopters that are less than three years old should undergo airframe condition evaluation and update applicable regulations and publications as necessary.

Furthermore, we recommend that the Project Management Utility Helicopters designate a H-60M and H-60V New Equipment Training Manager and evaluate the impact of funding the new equipment training has on the H-60M and H-60V programs’ costs and update program documentation as needed.

Management Comments and Our Response

The Vice Chief of Staff, Army; the Commander, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command; and the Project Manager Utility Helicopters provided comments in response to a draft of this report.

The Vice Chief of Staff, Army, agreed with our recommendation to provide future training capacity for new equipment training to all pilots on H-60M and H-60V helicopters. The Vice Chief of Staff stated that the Army will ensure that future reviews address the total force needs. The Vice Chief of Staff also stated that the Army will provide additional resources for H-60 training if institutional training cannot accommodate future training needs. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but remains open. We will close the recommendation once we verify that the Vice Chief of Staff has ensured that all U.S. Army H-60M and H-60V pilots will receive initial training.

The Commander, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, agreed with our recommendations to provide oversight and ensure annual H-60 airframe condition evaluations are conducted as required. Therefore, the recommendations are resolved but remains open. We will close these recommendations once we verify that the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command has:

  • developed an annual evaluation schedule that encompasses all helicopters and communicated it to H-60 unit commanders;
  • ensured that helicopters not evaluated will be given priority for evaluation in the next evaluation period;
  • demonstrated that evaluators have been instructed on how to document why a helicopter is unavailable for evaluation, including a unit commander’s refusal to make a helicopter available for evaluation, and report that refusal to the Commander, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command; and
  • completed its review of the required evaluation interval and make changes to applicable regulations and publications as necessary.

The Project Manager Utility Helicopters agreed with our recommendations to designate a H-60M and H-60V New Equipment Training Manager, and to evaluate the impact of funding the new equipment training on the H-60M and H-60V programs’ costs and update program documentation as needed. The Project Manager designated H-60M and H-60V New Equipment Training Managers. Therefore, the recommendation is closed. The Project Manager also agreed to evaluate the impact of funding the new equipment training has on the H-60M and H-60V programs’ costs and update program documentation as needed. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but remains open. We will close this recommendation once we verify that the Project Manager Utility Helicopters has completed the evaluation and updated the program documentation.

The Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) did not respond to our recommendation to require the Project Management Utility Helicopters to fund H-60M and H-60V new equipment training until all new equipment has been fielded. Therefore, the recommendation is unresolved and remains open. We request that the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) provide comments on the final report.


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