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Defense Hotline Allegations Concerning the MQ‑9 Block 5 Reaper Unmanned Aerial System DODIG-2019-036

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Objective

 

We conducted this audit in response to allegations made to the DoD Hotline. We determined whether the U.S. Air Force was: (1) inappropriately charged for MQ9 Reaper (MQ9) Block 5 aircraft repairs prior to the Air Force accepting the aircraft, (2) using the MQ9 Block 5 aircraft to support operational missions, and (3) properly estimating and procuring MQ9 Block 5 aircraft spare parts.

 

Background

 

In November 2017, the DoD Hotline received an allegation that the Air Force had been inappropriately charged for repairs on the MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft prior to Government acceptance. In January 2018, the complainant made additional allegations that the Air Force was not using the MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft for operational missions and that the Air Force procured excess MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft spare parts because the aircraft was not flying.

 

The MQ‑9 is an armed, medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft. The MQ‑9 is capable of performing multiple missions, including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, and combat search and rescue. The MQ‑9 includes two models, Block 1 and Block 5. The MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft provides upgraded communications, avionics, electrical power, and capabilities.

 

Finding

 

The Air Force was appropriately charged for MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft repairs prior to accepting the aircraft and was using MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft for operational missions. However, the Air Force procured excess MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft spare parts. Specifically, MQ‑9 Program Management Office (PMO) officials procured an available inventory of 5,456 MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft spare parts, valued at $92.6 million that included 3,746 excess spare parts, valued at $30.9 million. Our analysis is based on 3 years of demand data because DoD guidance requires that DoD Components limit their on-hand inventory to 3 years of operating stock.

 

MQ‑9 PMO officials procured excess spare parts because they did not have enough historical data on the MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft, which began flying combat missions in June 2017, to determine the accurate quantity of future spare parts needed. A General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) official explained that the aircraft has not yet accumulated enough actual flight hours to provide reliable historical data. As a result, MQ‑9 PMO officials owned 3,746 excess spare parts, valued at $30.9 million. The current demand data provided by MQ‑9 PMO officials identified spare parts that have been requested in the past 3 years, but were not on hand in sufficient quantities to meet projected needs.

 

Recommendations

 

We recommend that the Medium Altitude Unmanned Aerial Systems Division Senior Materiel Leader direct the MQ‑9 PMO to:

  • Incorporate actual spare parts use, as flight hours increase and data becomes available, when forecasting for MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft spare parts, in accordance with DoD Manual 4140.01, volume 2.


  • Use the excess MQ‑9 Block 5 aircraft spare parts before purchasing additional spare parts.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

 

The Medium Altitude Unmanned Aerial Systems Division Senior Materiel Leader agreed with our recommendations. The Senior Materiel Leader agreed to incorporate actual spare parts use when forecasting MQ‑9 Block 5 spare parts and use the excess MQ‑9 Block 5 spare parts before purchasing additional spare parts.

 

The recommendations are resolved but will remain open. We will close these recommendations when the Senior Materiel Leader provides documentation to support that the MQ‑9 PMO had GA‑ASI incorporate actual spare parts use and existing MQ‑9 Block 5 spare parts inventory into the Aircraft Sustainability Model when forecasting MQ‑9 Block 5 spare parts. Incorporating existing MQ‑9 Block 5 spare parts inventory into the forecasting model will validate that the Air Force uses excess MQ‑9 Block 5 spare parts before purchasing additional spare parts.

 

This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D000AT-0126.000.