Defense Inventory:

Air Force Plans and Initiatives to Mitigate Spare Parts Shortages Need Better Implementation

GAO-03-706: Published: Jun 27, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 2003.

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Despite reporting $10.5 billion in appropriations spent on spare parts since fiscal year 2000, the Air Force continues to report shortages of spare parts. The service has taken numerous actions to address these shortages. GAO examined whether the Air Force's strategic plan addresses the mitigation of spare parts shortages, whether key initiatives are likely to mitigate the shortages, and the impact on readiness identified from increased investments for spare parts.

The Air Force Strategic Plan generally provides an appropriate framework for mitigating spare parts shortages. However, one of two subordinate plans does not contain performance measures and targets linked to the strategic plan, and the other does not contain any performance targets. Therefore, the Air Force is not in a position to determine if the actions taken pursuant to its subordinate plans overcome spare parts shortages and provide assurance that it is getting the greatest readiness return on its spare parts investment. Key logistics initiatives under the Spares Campaign and Depot Maintenance Reengineering and Transformation (DMRT) efforts may help to mitigate spare parts shortages, but the initiatives' potential effectiveness is limited because of some key problems. First, the Air Force is not starting all identified initiatives that relate to the causes of shortages because it did not have needed personnel and funding. It assessed its logistics processes and identified more than 80 initiatives to solve more than 300 deficiencies; 43 initiatives were to improve processes that affect spare parts shortages, with about half relating to depot maintenance and the other half to supply. Although all depot maintenance-related initiatives have been started, 12 of the supply related initiatives have not been started. Second, 23 of the 31 initiatives lack both output-related performance measures and targets. Without output-related measures and targets to assess the initiatives' impact, the Air Force has little means of determining the extent to which it has successfully mitigated spare parts shortages and improved readiness. Third, the Air Force chose not to use the results of one of its initiatives, which identified a new total spares requirement as the basis for its fiscal year 2004 budget request. This decision resulted in a $578 million unfunded spare parts requirement. Finally, management problems--including failure to articulate the need for change, a lack of top-level commitment, and failure to address organizational issues--have hampered implementation of the initiatives. In February 2003, the Air Force established the Innovation and Transformation Directorate to address these problems, but its plans and priorities have not been set. The Air Force can estimate the impact of increased funding on individual weapon systems' supply availability and has done so. Based on its approximately $5.3 billion fiscal year 2004 spare parts budget request, the Air Force reported that aircraft supply availability would range from 73 to 100 percent. However, it cautioned that higher supply availability does not automatically result in higher mission capable rates because of other factors.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed to ensure that Air Force logistics initiatives plans and priorities are established and harmonized with the strategic plan. Its campaign plans being drafted were to spell out milestones that will be tracked for each initiative.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to direct the new Innovation and Transformation Directorate to establish plans and priorities for improving management of logistics initiatives consistent with the Air Force Strategic Plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD responded that the Air Force's Directorate of Innovation and Transformation will measure all initiatives in terms of specified weapon system availability and cost goals. It also directed that all subordinate goals for individual initiatives be tied to these overall goals.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to adopt performance measures and targets for its initiatives that will show how their implementation will affect critical spare parts availability and readiness.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree to account for the 12 remaining initiatives by telling which were incorporated into its other initiatives and what events have overtaken the need to implement the others. DODIG closed the recommendation based on the Air Force's statement that it would be inefficient and unnecessary to track progress on individual actions for the original initiatives separately.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to commit to start those remaining initiatives needed to address the causes of spare parts shortages or clearly identify how the initiatives have been incorporated into those initiatives already underway.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD responded that its Air Force Directorate of Innovation and Transformation is developing a balanced scorecard and supporting metrics to measure performance that meets the intent of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to incorporate the Air Force Strategic Plan's performance measures and targets into the subordinate Logistics Support Plan and the Supply Strategic Plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD said the Air Force had used its new requirements process to project its spare parts budget, but did not request funds consistent with the results because funding was constrained. This action confirmed GAO's statement that the Air Force had underfunded its spare parts requirements and thereby created the potential for a supplemental budget request or additional spare parts shortages that could negatively affect readiness.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to request spare parts funds in the Air Force's budget consistent with results of its spare parts requirements determination process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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