Defense Inventory:

Air Force Item Manager Views of Repair Parts Issues Consistent With Issues Reported in the Past

GAO-03-684R: Published: May 21, 2003. Publicly Released: May 21, 2003.

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Since 1990 we have consistently identified the Department of Defense's (DOD) management of secondary inventory (spare and repair parts, medical supplies, and other items to support the operating forces) as a high-risk area because inventory levels were too high and management systems and procedures were ineffective. In addition, DOD has attributed readiness problems to parts shortages. Previously, we reported on the wide variety of reasons for inventory of spare parts being above or below the levels needed to satisfy current inventory requirements. This is one in a series of reports addressing defense inventory vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, and abuse. Congress asked that we specifically obtain the views about defense inventory imbalances from item managers, i.e., those who are responsible for maintaining the right amount of inventory.

We found that the reasons and operational impacts item managers cited for our sample items being either above or below the levels needed to satisfy current inventory requirements were similar to the reasons and impacts cited in our prior reports. For shortages, item managers often cited the lack of component parts and repair shop capacity/process problems. In our 1999 report, we discuss the Air Force's effectiveness in providing inventory items to its customers, and identified component parts shortages as the most frequent cause of aircraft repair work not being done on time. For causes of excess items, the managers often cited a buildup of inventory to support a new program, or for an aircraft retrofit, modification, upgrade, or replacement. In 1997, we reported that a similar reason for inventory items being in excess--purchases made to support a system before it was activated--was common. The operational impacts cited by item managers were also similar to those given in our past work. As in the past, shortages were often cited as a contributing factor to reduced mission capability of aircraft or delays in planned maintenance. In addition, excesses were often cited as contributing to the consumption of warehouse space and related storage costs.

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