Defense Logistics:

Information on the Test and Evaluation and Assignment and Cancellation of National Stock Numbers as It Relates to MILITEC-1

GAO-09-735R: Published: Jun 25, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2009.

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William M. Solis
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The purpose of this letter is to respond to Congressional request for information regarding the test and evaluation process conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD) of a specific synthetic lubricant called MILITEC-1 that is produced by Militec, Inc., and the assignment and cancellation of national stock numbers2 (NSN) associated with that product. Militec, Inc., has challenged DOD decisions not to include MILITEC-1 in the federal supply system. Specifically, we examined (1) the extent to which the military services have tested and evaluated MILITEC-1 as a small arms lubricant, as a metal conditioner, as a general purpose lubricant, and as a lubricant additive, and with what results; and (2) the extent to which the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) followed applicable DOD procedures in assigning and subsequently canceling national stock numbers to MILITEC-1. In addition, we are providing in enclosure I a timeline on the efforts to test and evaluate, and assign and cancel, NSNs for MILITEC-1. MILITEC-1 is a dry, impregnated, synthetic-based metal conditioner that, at the time of our review, has been primarily marketed as a small arms lubricant, although it is also marketed as an automotive and transportation lubricant. The product is packaged in several container sizes and is available for commercial purchase. According to DOD officials, in order for a product to be approved for use on small arms it must fulfill DOD's performance specifications by meeting a number of laboratory and live fire test requirements developed by the Army, which has cognizance across DOD for the specification for cleaner, lubricant, and preservative properties in small arms lubricants. Once a product has been approved and the services have determined that they have sufficient projected demand for the product, the services request that DLA assign the product an NSN---a label assigned to items that are repeatedly purchased, stocked, stored, issued, and used throughout the federal supply system.

From 1988 to 2006, the military services tested and evaluated MILITEC-1 11 times for various uses, including as a small arms cleaner, lubricant, and preservative; a metal conditioner; a general purpose lubricant; or a lubricant additive. Although the product passed early tests as a lubricant additive in the late 1980s, it did not pass 9 of the 11 tests and evaluations. These tests ranged from a limited demonstration of performance characteristics to a comprehensive assessment of the product with regard to military specifications. The product has not passed any tests and evaluations for a small arms cleaner, lubricant, and preservative, metal conditioner, or a general purpose lubricant. In 1988 and 1989, MILITEC-1 passed Marine Corps and Navy tests and evaluations as a lubricant additive, but it did not pass a subsequent test and evaluation as a lubricant additive in 1994. Militec, Inc., continues to market its product for use as a small arms lubricant to DOD, and asserts that DOD's current product specification is flawed. The Army disagrees that its military specification is flawed and has extended to Militec, Inc., the opportunity either to demonstrate how its product has been modified to conform to the current military specification for a small arms lubricant or indicate why the specification should be modified, according to DOD officials. However, Militec, Inc., has not done so. DLA did not follow applicable DOD procedures when it assigned NSNs for MILITEC-1 in 1993 and again in 1995 in that it did not first obtain approval from the military services as required by DLA procedures, according to agency officials. However, the agency did follow applicable procedures when it subsequently canceled or blocked NSNs in 1995, 2003, and 2007, according to DLA officials and our review of available documentation. DOD officials told us that their procedures require DLA to obtain approval from the military services prior to assigning NSNs, to ensure that a product meets military specifications. The services did not approve the assignment of NSNs for MILITEC-1 in the 1990s, yet because of the department's push toward the use of commercial off-the-shelf items, the product was assigned NSNs by DLA in 1993 and did get into the supply system. Soon after, however, in 1994 DLA initiated action to cancel the NSNs because of a lack of service support. In that respect, DLA did correctly follow applicable procedures on the occasions when it either canceled the product--that is, removed it from the federal supply system--or halted its purchase throughout the 1990s and continuing to 2007, according to DLA officials.

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