Defense Acquisitions:

Air Force Decision to Include a Passenger and Cargo Capability in Its Replacement Refueling Aircraft Was Made without Required Analyses

GAO-07-367R: Published: Mar 6, 2007. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2007.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

William M. Solis
(202) 512-8365
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The United States Air Force has described aerial refueling as a key capability supporting the National Security Strategy and military warfighters on a daily basis. Currently, the Air Force uses two aircraft for aerial refueling: the KC-135 and the KC-10. While the KC-10 fleet has an average age greater than 20 years, the KC-135 fleet averages more than 46 years and is the oldest combat weapon system in the Air Force inventory. Consequently, the Air Force intends to replace or recapitalize the KC-135 first. The Air Force began its KC-135 recapitalization efforts in fiscal year 2004, and officials presented a KC-135 recapitalization program to joint military decision makers in November 2006. This program proposed the inclusion of a passenger and cargo capability, which exists to some extent in the current aircraft, in the replacement air refueling aircraft. According to Air Force officials, the recapitalization process may cost between $72 billion and $120 billion and will span decades. This recapitalization takes place at a time when the Air Force faces fiscal constraints over the next few years, forcing officials to reconfigure the service's short- and long-term priorities in its fiscal year 2008 budget plan. The Air Force has begun this process by announcing the intention to reduce personnel levels by 40,000 members. GAO is currently reviewing, under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative, the Analysis of Alternatives for the recapitalization of the KC-135 aircraft. To fully understand the Analysis of Alternatives for the KC-135 Recapitalization, we reviewed the requirements determination process, of which an analysis of alternatives is a part. Specifically, GAO reviewed (1) to what extent policy and implementing guidance were followed in identifying the passenger and cargo capability and in assessing the associated risk of not including that capability in the replacement refueling aircraft proposal and (2) to what extent decision makers, who validated and approved the capability as a requirement, relied on analyses as specified in policy and implementing guidance and the extent to which this reliance may affect initiation of the acquisition program.

Mandatory Air Force policy requires Air Force organizations to use a formal capabilities-based approach to identify, evaluate, develop, field, and sustain capabilities that compete for limited resources. Contrary to mandatory Air Force implementing guidance, however, the Air Force proposal for a replacement refueling aircraft included a passenger and cargo capability without analyses identifying an associated gap, shortfall, or redundant capability. According to mandatory Air Force implementing guidance, analyses supporting the decision-making process should assess a capability based on the effects it seeks to generate and the associated operational risk of not having it. In this case, the supporting analyses determined neither need nor risk with regard to a passenger and cargo capability. Air Force officials could not provide supporting information sufficient to explain this discrepancy between the analyses and their proposal. Without sound analyses, the Air Force may be at risk of spending several billion dollars unnecessarily for a capability that may not be needed to meet a gap or shortfall. Military decision makers approved the passenger and cargo capability as a requirement although supporting analyses identified no need or associated risk. Mandatory Air Force implementing guidance states that senior leaders must use the documented results of analyses to confirm the identified capability requirement. The Air Force Requirements for Operational Capabilities Council validated, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Joint Requirements Oversight Council validated and approved, the replacement refueling aircraft proposal with a passenger and cargo capability. Following this approval of the oversight councils, DOD plans to solicit proposals and award a contract for the replacement of the refueling aircraft late in fiscal year 2007. However, including a passenger and cargo capability without analyses identifying an associated gap or shortfall could preclude the certification of the program by the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to Congress. Without this certification, the acquisition program for the replacement refueling aircraft cannot begin.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force awarded the contract for the tanker without doing the analysis.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider requiring, in addition to the certification described by section 2366a of title 10, United States Code, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics to make a specific certification that the Air Force employed a sound, traceable, and repeatable process producing analyses that determined if there is a gap, shortfall, or redundancy and assessed the associated risk with regard to passenger and cargo capability for the KC-135 Recapitalization, and consistent with service policy, Congress may wish to consider requiring that these analyses are made available to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council prior to the Under Secretary's certification of the program pursuant to section 2366a of title 10, United States Code.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force awarded the contract for the tanker without doing the analysis.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to accomplish the required analyses that evaluate the proposed passenger and cargo capability so as to determine of there is a gap, shortfall, or redundancy, assess the associated risk, and then submit such documentation to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council for validation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force awarded the contract for the tanker without the analysis.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to formally notify the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics that such analyses have been completed as required prior to certification of the program to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 19, 2014

Sep 18, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Sep 9, 2014

Sep 8, 2014

Jul 31, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here