Report | Sept. 29, 2021

Audit of Navy and Marine Corps Actions to Address Corrosion on F/A-18C-G Aircraft (DODIG-2021-133)

Audit

Publicly Released: October 1, 2021

 

Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine whether Navy and Marine Corps officials performed required inspections and maintenance to identify and address (prevent and correct) corrosion in F/A-18C-G aircraft and implemented, or plan to implement, technical directives to address corrosion on F/A-18C-G aircraft in accordance with DoD requirements.

 

Background

This audit was performed in response to a reporting requirement for the DoD Office of Inspector General contained in the House Armed Services Committee report that accompanied the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021. Specifically, the Committee directed us to review whether Department of the Navy (DON) maintainers performed organizational-level maintenance to address corrosion in F/A-18C-G aircraft.

Squadron maintainers should perform organizational-level, corrosion-related inspections on F/A-18C-G aircraft every 84 calendar days (approximately 4 times per year). During the 84-day inspections, maintainers at the organizational level may identify an issue with the aircraft related to corrosion and document the issue in a maintenance action form. Additionally, the DON issued technical directives to provide technical information necessary to properly and systematically inspect or alter the configuration of aircraft, engines, systems, or equipment to address corrosion.

The DON has extended the service life of F/A-18C-F aircraft. To modify the service life of these aircraft, the DON entered the aircraft into a service life assessment program that evaluated how the aircraft was flown compared to the original designed use. Upon completing the assessment program, the DON had an extended service life limit for the aircraft. Next, the DON developed service life extension programs that included modifications, repairs, inspections, or revised service intervals required to be performed on aircraft to reach the aircraft’s extended service life limit. Fleet Readiness Centers, Marine Corps Air Stations, and contractors provide the services for the service life extension programs.

 

Finding

According to DON records, at the organizational (squadron) level, maintainers generally reported that they performed required 84-day inspections, completed associated maintenance actions, and implemented technical directives designed to address (prevent and correct) corrosion on F/A-18C-G aircraft.

Specifically, we found that DON maintainers did not perform required 84-day inspections in FY 2020 for [REDACTED] of the 151 aircraft in our sample, and did not provide a valid reason for why the inspections were not performed or why the DON lacked the records to show that the inspections occurred. Also, DON maintainers did not complete [REDACTED] maintenance actions and did not provide a valid reason for not completing the maintenance actions.

Based on our analysis of the inspections, maintenance, contractor reports about organizational-level corrosion, and actions taken by the DON to improve the condition of aircraft entering the service life extension programs, we concluded that:

  • maintainers did not always perform the organizational-level inspections or maintenance to DON standards, and
  • officials responsible for oversight of organizational-level inspections and maintenance did not always identify and correct work that did not meet the standards.

According to DON officials, the House Armed Services Committee report, and three reports that we reviewed from the contractors performing the service life extensions, aircraft entering the service life extension process had corrosion that DON maintainers should have identified at the organizational level. Based on reporting by the contractor to the DON and the House Armed Services Committee, the DON took actions to improve the condition of aircraft entering the service life extension programs, including additional training, meetings, coordination, and detailed inspections.

Ensuring that organizational-level inspections and maintenance are performed to DON standards is crucial because the DON spends billions to address corrosion on F/A-18C-G aircraft. Specifically, from FYs 2017 through 2020, the cost to the DON of addressing organizational-level corrosion for F/A-18C-G aircraft was more than $2 billion, and from FYs 2018 through 2020 the DON [REDACTED] mission capable availability rate goals of [REDACTED] for F/A-18C/Ds and EA-18Gs and [REDACTED] for F/A-18E/Fs. Furthermore, corrosion may contribute to mission capability rates. However, we do not know if corrosion contributed to the mission capability rates and, if so, the extent to which it contributed.

 

Recommendations

We recommend that the Commander, Naval Air Forces, direct the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, 2nd Marine Air Wing, and 3rd Marine Air Wing to review the facts and circumstances surrounding the aircraft that did not have four 84-day inspections in FY 2020 and the aircraft that had maintenance actions open to determine whether there is a systemic problem and develop a solution to mitigate the problem. If no systemic problem exists, then the Commander, Naval Air Forces, should direct Wing officials to develop internal controls to ensure inspections occur and maintenance actions are completed.

We also recommend that the Commander, Naval Air Forces, assess the actions implemented to address corrosion and determine whether these actions resulted in fewer instances of corrosion that should have been identified at the organizational level, reduced costs, or improved readiness. If the actions have not led to those results, then the Commander should identify alternate initiatives to address organizational-level corrosion inspection and maintenance.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

[REDACTED]. Furthermore, based on supporting documentation provided, we agree that [REDACTED] of the [REDACTED] aircraft had received four 84-day inspections in FY 2020 or had a valid reason for not receiving four inspections. However, the Commander, Naval Air Forces, did not provide documentation that showed the DON completed four 84-day inspections for [REDACTED] of the aircraft. Because the officials determined that the 84-day inspections occurred, there was no need for the DON to develop an internal control to address the lack of 84-day inspections at the Wing level. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved, but will remain open until the Commander, Naval Air Forces, provides maintenance records so we can verify that the remaining [REDACTED] aircraft received four 84-day inspections.

[REDACTED]. Furthermore, we agree that [REDACTED] of the maintenance actions have been closed. However, there is [REDACTED] aircraft with [REDACTED] maintenance actions that have not been closed as of August 2021. Because the officials determined that [REDACTED] of [REDACTED] maintenance actions were completed and we have requested additional information from the DON for the [REDACTED] remaining maintenance actions, there was no need for the DON to develop an internal control to address the maintenance actions that had not been closed at the Wing level. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved, but will remain open until the Commander, Naval Air Forces, provides maintenance records so we can verify that these [REDACTED] maintenance actions have been closed.

[REDACTED]. We acknowledge that the DON implemented actions to address corrosion; however, the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff did not state whether these actions have been assessed for effectiveness. Comments from the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff did not address the intent of this recommendation; therefore, the recommendation is unresolved. To resolve this recommendation, we request that the Commander, Naval Air Forces, provide additional comments that explain how and when the DON will measure the effectiveness of the implemented actions taken to address corrosion and determine whether these actions resulted in fewer instances of corrosion, reduced costs, or improved readiness. If the Commander, Naval Air Forces, plans to use metrics other than those we specifically identified to measure success, we ask that the Commander describe those metrics. Once the DON has completed the assessment, we ask that the Commander, Naval Air Forces, provide us with a copy of the results.

 

This report is the result of Proj. No. D2021-D000RK-0010.000.