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Navy and Marine Corps Backup Aircraft and Depot Maintenance Float for Ground Combat and Tactical Vehicles DODIG-2019-047

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Objective

We determined whether the quantities of backup aircraft and depot maintenance float allowance (DMFA) for ground combat and tactical vehicles would impact Navy and Marine Corps unit readiness.


Background


The Navy and Marine Corps provide operational units with replacement aircraft or vehicles, known as backup aircraft and DMFA, to maintain readiness levels when a unit’s aircraft or vehicle undergo depot maintenance, modification, or repair. We reviewed the backup aircraft for the F/A‑18 aircraft, T‑45 aircraft, and MH‑60 helicopter and the DMFA for the Assault Amphibious Vehicle, Light Armored Vehicle, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. The on‑hand quantity of backup aircraft and depot maintenance float vehicles can change daily due to fluctuations in depot workload.


Findings

The Navy and Marine Corps did not have a sufficient quantity of operational F/A‑18 and T‑45 aircraft available to replace all aircraft requiring depot maintenance. Specifically, 245 F/A‑18 and 22 T-45 backup aircraft were in a non-operational status. The insufficient quantity of available backup aircraft occurred because the squadrons and training wings used the backup inventory to transition squadrons to newer models and replace training aircraft that were damaged to the extent that repair was uneconomical or impractical. The Navy and Marine Corps also extended the service life of the F/A‑18 and T‑45 aircraft. Although pilots were receiving the required amount of training before a deployment, a Navy official stated it was a problem because pilots were barely meeting the minimum requirement. In addition, the Navy and Marine Corps could experience a future shortfall of trained pilots, potentially impacting mission readiness if aircraft shortages continue.

In addition, the Navy had more MH‑60R and MH‑60S helicopters than it required to maintain readiness. This occurred because the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems did not require communication between its divisions regarding changes that would impact a dependent weapon system. Specifically, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Director of Air Warfare, did not receive notification of the Littoral Combat Ship’s quantity changes and schedule delays. The MH‑60R and MH‑60S helicopters would deploy on the Littoral Combat Ship. As a result, the Navy spent $1.4 billion to procure 57 helicopters that were in storage and will spend more than $2 million annually to store these helicopters until at least 2020 when additional Littoral Combat Ships are delivered.

Finally, the Marine Corps had sufficient quantities of depot maintenance float vehicles on-hand for the Assault Amphibious Vehicle, Light Armored Vehicle, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to maintain unit readiness. However, the Marine Corps could not justify all DMFA authorizations. This occurred because Installations and Logistics officials did not perform the annual DMFA review and approve all DMFA authorization changes. As a result, the Marine Corps may unnecessarily spend funds on depot maintenance float vehicles that are not needed and other vehicles may have the incorrect DMFA quantity needed to maintain unit readiness.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Chief of Naval Operations, Director of Air Warfare, coordinate with the Naval Air Forces Commander and the Naval Air Training Chief to develop a plan to maintain a sufficient quantity of operational aircraft to allow training and operational missions, typically performed with F/A-18 A-D and T-45 aircraft, to continue without interruption. In addition, we recommend that the Commander of the Naval Air Systems Command require F/A-18 and T-45 program offices to prepare and update the life-cycle sustainment plan based on changes to the expected service life.

We recommend that the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems develop a communication plan to keep dependent weapon system’s divisions and program offices informed of changes in quantity and delivery schedule and reassess impacts on procurement quantities.

We recommend that the Installations and Logistics Deputy Commandant require Installations and Logistics officials to initiate and complete DMFA annual reviews and approve all DMFA authorization changes according to Marine Corps policy.

Management Comments and Our Response

The Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Director of Air Warfare, responding for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, agreed to coordinate with the Naval Air Forces Commander and the Naval Air Training Chief to develop a plan to maintain a sufficient quantity of operational aircraft to allow training and operational missions, typically performed with F/A-18 A-D and T-45 aircraft, to continue without interruption. The Deputy Director stated that a plan is in place to achieve 80 percent operational aircraft rates. The Navy provided us copies of the plans to increase mission capable rates; therefore, this recommendation is closed.

The Inspector General for the Naval Air Systems Command, responding for the Commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, agreed with our recommendation to prepare and update the life-cycle sustainment plan based on changes to the expected service life. The Inspector General stated that the F/A-18 and T-45 program offices will prepare the life-cycle sustainment plans by December 31, 2019. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close this recommendation once the Inspector General provides us the plans.

The Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Director of Air Warfare, responding for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, expressed concern with our recommendation to develop a communication plan to keep dependent weapon system’s divisions and program offices informed of changes in quantity and delivery schedule and reassess impacts on procurement quantities. However, the Deputy Director stated that the Program Objective Memorandum-2021 guidance creates a new structure to increase communication between land, sea, air, and undersea systems. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close this recommendation once we verify that the Program Objective Memorandum-2021 guidance is completed and contains sufficient guidance regarding communication.

The Office of the Director, Marine Corps Staff Audit Coordination Head, responding for the Installations and Logistics Deputy Commandant, agreed with our recommendation to require Installations and Logistics officials to initiate and complete DMFA annual reviews and approve all DMFA authorization changes. The 2018 DMFA annual review was completed January 3, 2019 and the Audit Coordination Head stated that the 2019 DMFA annual review will be initiated in May 2019. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We received a copy of the completed 2018 DMFA annual review. We will close this recommendation once we verify the initiation of the 2019 DMFA annual review.

This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D000AT-0091.000.