oversight

Defense Logistics: Space-Available Travel Challenges May Be Exacerbated If Eligibility Expands

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-09-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548



           September 10, 2012

           The Honorable Carl Levin
           Chairman
           The Honorable John McCain
           Ranking Member
           Committee on Armed Services
           United States Senate

           The Honorable Howard P. McKeon
           Chairman
           The Honorable Adam Smith
           Ranking Member
           Committee on Armed Services
           House of Representatives


           Subject: Defense Logistics: Space-Available Travel Challenges May Be Exacerbated If
           Eligibility Expands

           The space-available travel program is a privilege given to members of the armed forces to
           provide some relief from the rigors of duty when members are on leave. Retired members of
           the armed forces were also given the privilege in recognition of a career of such rigorous
           duty. 1 This privilege may, in certain circumstances, be extended to other categories of
           passengers, such as dependents of active and retired members of the armed forces.
           Through the space-available travel program, eligible travelers are permitted to use open
           seats on certain military-owned or contracted aircraft after all required passengers have
           been accommodated. Space-available flights fly within the United States, between the
           United States and overseas, and between overseas locations. The Department of Defense
           (DOD) designed the space-available program to be a privilege and only extends this
           privilege to space-available travelers when it does not interfere with the aircraft’s mission.
           These aircraft are not permitted to be rerouted or rescheduled to accommodate space-
           available passengers, and travel must be without additional expense to the United States.
           Recently, bills have been introduced in Congress to reauthorize or expand the space-
           available travel program to potentially include international travel for gray-area retirees
           (reservists who are entitled to retirement pay at age 60) and their dependents, international
           travel for reservists and their dependents, and widows and widowers of active duty
           personnel and reservists and their dependents. 2 Section 362 of the National Defense
           Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 directed GAO to review DOD’s space-available travel


           1
            Department of Defense Regulation 4515.13-R, Air Transportation Eligibility (November 1994) (incorporating change 3, Apr. 9,
           1998).
           2
            See, for example, S. 3254, 112th Cong. § 632 (2012), which would codify authority for the space available program, and S.
           2112, 112th Cong. (2012), which would potentially require the Secretary of Defense to expand eligibility.




                                                                                        GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
program. 3 This report provides information on (1) the number of passengers that used the
space-available travel program from 2009 through 2011, and (2) the effect that an increase
in eligible travelers may have on the usage of the space-available program, adherence to
DOD’s original intent for the program, and air terminal logistics and maintenance.

To conduct this work, we interviewed officials in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Transportation Policy; the Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy; the
Marine Corps; the Joint Staff; the United States Transportation Command and its Air Mobility
Command; the Defense Manpower Data Center; and the Department of Veterans Affairs
about the space-available travel program. To determine how many passengers used the
space-available travel program, we requested relevant data from DOD; however, limited
data are actually collected by DOD since it does not consider the space-available program a
DOD mission and additional DOD funds cannot be spent to support space-available travel.
DOD provided data for the number of space-available passengers who actually traveled and
the number of unused seats for space-available travelers for the past 3 fiscal years. DOD
does not collect data on the number of persons who wished to travel but did not get a seat
on space-available flights. Although we find the data sufficiently reliable for showing the
number of passengers who actually traveled and the number of unused seats, we cannot
quantify nor estimate the number of travelers who were not able to obtain space-available
seats during this period.

To determine the effect an increase in eligible travelers may have on the usage of the
space-available travel program, adherence to DOD’s original intent for the program, and air
terminal logistics and maintenance, we collected and analyzed documents on the space-
available travel program, such as DOD travel regulations and instructions, prior reports
about expanding the program, and Sections 2641, 2648, and 2649 of Title 10, United States
Code, which authorize the space-available travel program. To determine the effect an
increase in eligible travelers would have on future usage of the program, we analyzed
passenger data from fiscal years 2009 through 2011 and estimates of the number of
potentially eligible travelers under the current proposal, as well as projected usage. To
determine the effect an increase in eligible travelers would have on DOD’s original intent for
the program, we obtained and analyzed DOD documents and data and interviewed
cognizant DOD officials. To identify logistics and maintenance problems associated with the
program, if any, we obtained and analyzed testimonial evidence from DOD officials and
space-available travelers. We also visited two air terminals to observe the space-available
travel process and interview space-available travelers about their experiences with the
space-available program; however, the data are not generalizable and provide only a small
window of experiences of passengers of the space-available travel program.

We conducted this performance audit from March 2012 through September 2012 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards
require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to
provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.
We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.

In summary, we found the following:

According to DOD data, over 500,000 passengers used the space-available travel program
from fiscal years 2009 through 2011. DOD data show that the five most-used air terminals
have limited seats available. Specifically, seats for the three most-traveled destinations from
each terminal were near capacity in Fiscal Year 2011. While there were some unused seats

3
Pub. L. No. 112-81, § 362 (2011).



Page 2                                                     GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
for space-available travel, these may be seats on routes with less-desirable destinations or
during less-popular travel months.

Additionally, DOD officials indicated that existing challenges with usage of the space-
available travel program, adherence to DOD’s original intent for the program, and air
terminal logistics and maintenance would be exacerbated if the number of eligible
passengers were to increase.

   •     On the basis of Defense Manpower Data Center data, we estimated that the
         expansion of the space-available travel program could lead to additional space-
         available travelers not obtaining seats. Expanding eligibility to include international
         travel for gray-area retirees (retired reservists under the age of 60 who are currently
         eligible to travel space available within the United States) and their dependents;
         international travel for reservists and their dependents; and domestic and
         international travel for widows and their dependents could lead to around 20,000
         travelers not being able to obtain space-available seats. However, this estimate may
         be low since it is based on the percentage of eligible travelers who used space-
         available travel in 2011 but does not include those who were unable to obtain space-
         available seats in 2011.
   •     According to DOD officials, expanding the space-available travel program could also
         adversely affect uniformed service members, for whom DOD created the program.
         For example, according to Air Mobility Command officials, a lower-priority passenger
         who already has a seat cannot be rotated off of an en-route flight at a subsequent
         stop by a space-available traveler in a higher-priority category. Therefore, the higher-
         priority uniformed service member may have to take leave while waiting to obtain a
         space-available seat on another flight or purchase a ticket with a commercial airline.
   •     According to DOD officials, expanding the pool of eligible passengers would also
         increase the burden on terminal personnel and require additional maintenance. Each
         space-available traveler requires terminal personnel assistance for documentation
         review, check-in processes, baggage handling, security screening, responding to
         travel questions, and transportation to and from the aircraft. DOD officials also stated
         that space-available travelers’ use of terminal facilities results in additional
         maintenance costs for waiting areas, restrooms, and vending machines.
   •     DOD believes budgetary constraints and planned reductions could affect future
         availability of seats. For example, the number of seats for space-available travel
         could be reduced if the number of DOD missions decreases because of DOD
         efficiency efforts or flight routes change based on force structure changes and
         mission requirements. DOD officials also stated that 90-95 percent of space-
         available travel is on commercially contracted aircraft, and DOD is planning to
         reduce its use of contracted aircraft as a result of mission reductions and budgetary
         constraints.
   •     We found that the majority of the 24 space-available travelers interviewed at Dover
         Air Force Base and Baltimore Washington International Airport were generally
         satisfied with traveling space-available. The results of these interviews are not
         generalizable to a larger group and only represent observations made by these
         specific travelers on that particular date at those particular locations.

Additional information on the results of our work is contained in enclosure I. We are not
making any recommendations for agency action or raising any matters for congressional
consideration. DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs responded to a draft of this
report with no comments.




Page 3                                                      GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
                                              ----

We are sending copies of this report to appropriate congressional committees and to the
Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In addition, this letter will be
made available at no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

Should you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please contact me at
(202) 512-7968 or mctiguej@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional
Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this letter. Key contributors to
this report were Marie Mak, Assistant Director; David Keefer; Caitlin Kilpatrick; Joanne
Landesman; Jennifer Madison; Gregory Marchand; Erika Prochaska; and Terry Richardson.




James R. McTigue, Jr., Acting Director
Defense Capabilities and Management

Enclosure




Page 4                                                     GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
Enclosure 1

                  Defense Logistics




   Defense Logistics: Space-Available Travel
       Challenges May Be Exacerbated If
              Eligibility Expands



               September 10, 2012




                                                              Page 1




Page 5                                GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
  Objectives

  The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
     directed GAO to review the Department of Defense (DOD)
     program for space-available travel to determine the current and
     projected future capacity of DOD’s airlift system, as well as the
     system’s efficiency, among other things.1 To address the required
     elements, we reviewed the following:
  1. The number of passengers that used the space-available travel
     program from 2009 through 2011.
  2. The effect that an increase in eligible travelers may have on the
     usage of the space-available program, adherence to DOD’s
     original intent for the program, and air terminal logistics and
     maintenance.
  1Pub.   L. No. 112-81, § 362 (2011).



                                                                    Page 2




Page 6                                      GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
  Scope and Methodology

  To determine how many passengers used the space-available travel program from
    2009 through 2011, we conducted the following work:
  • We interviewed officials in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of
    Defense for Transportation Policy and U.S. Transportation Command and its
    Air Mobility Command about the usage of the space-available travel program.
  • We requested program data from DOD. However, limited data are collected by
    DOD since it does not consider the space-available program a DOD mission
    and additional DOD funds cannot be spent to support space-available travel.
    We analyzed traveler data from 2009 through 2011, because DOD retains
    space-available data only from the last 3 fiscal years.
      • For this review, we define efficiency as maximizing the amount of space-
         available seats used; however, to determine seat maximization, we would
         need to analyze data on how many seats were available, used, and
         unused, and the number of travelers who did not obtain seats on desired
         flights. DOD does not collect data on how many travelers do not obtain
         seats on specific flights, therefore DOD does not collect all the data
         necessary to make this determination.
                                                                           Page 3




Page 7                                           GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
  Scope and Methodology (cont’d)

  To determine the effect an increase in eligible travelers would have on the usage
    of the space-available program, adherence to DOD’s original intent for the
    program, and air terminal logistics and maintenance, we conducted the
    following work:
  • We interviewed officials in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of
    Defense for Transportation Policy; the Departments of the Army, Air Force, and
    Navy; the Marine Corps; the Joint Staff; the U.S. Transportation Command and
    its Air Mobility Command; the Defense Manpower Data Center; and the
    Department of Veterans Affairs about the space-available travel program.
  • To determine the effect an increase in eligible travelers would have on future
    usage of the space-available program, we analyzed DOD passenger data from
    fiscal years 2009 through 2011 and estimates of proposed newly eligible
    groups, including calculating projected usage. We limited our analysis to the
    last 3 fiscal years (2009 through 2011) because the DOD data system retains
    space-available data only from the last 3 fiscal years.


                                                                              Page 4




Page 8                                             GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
  Scope and Methodology (cont’d)

  To determine the effect an increase in eligible travelers would have on DOD’s original
     intent for the program, including the program’s cost, if any, we obtained and
     analyzed DOD documents and data and interviewed cognizant DOD officials to
     corroborate our analysis.
         • We analyzed Sections 2641, 2648, and 2649 of Title 10, U.S. Code, which
           authorize the space-available travel program. We also obtained DOD
           regulations and reports on the space-available program and analyzed these
           documents to determine DOD’s original intent for the program.
         • According to DOD officials, DOD does not collect data on the cost of the
           program because additional DOD funds cannot be spent to support space-
           available travel.
  To identify logistics and maintenance problems, if any, associated with the space-
     available program, we obtained and analyzed testimonial evidence from DOD
     officials and space-available travelers. We visited two air terminals to observe the
     space-available travel process and interview space-available travelers about their
     experiences with the space-available program.
                                                                                      Page 5




Page 9                                                  GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
  Summary

  • According to DOD data, over 500,000 passengers used the
    space-available travel program from fiscal years 2009 through
    2011.

  • According to DOD officials, existing challenges with space-
    available usage, adherence to DOD’s original intent for the
    program, and air terminal logistics and maintenance would be
    exacerbated if the number of eligible travelers were to increase.
    Also, we estimated that the expansion of the space-available
    travel program could lead to additional space-available travelers
    not obtaining seats.



                                                                    Page 6




Page 10                                     GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Background

  Space-Available Program Designed as a
  Privilege for Members of the Armed Forces
  • The space-available travel program can be traced back to a 1907 statute.1
  • DOD’s implementing regulation designed the program as a privilege for
    members of the armed forces, to provide relief from the rigors of duty. Retired
    members of the armed forces were also given the privilege in recognition of a
    career of such rigorous duty.2
  • Space-available travelers are permitted to travel on military-owned or
    contracted aircraft with surplus seats only when it does not interfere with the
    DOD missions that the aircraft are fulfilling.
  • These aircraft are not permitted to be rerouted or rescheduled to accommodate
    space-available passengers.
  • Under 10 U.S.C. § 2648, space-available transportation must be without
    expense to the United States. DOD’s implementing regulation states that “no
    (or negligible) additional funds shall be expended and no additional flying hours
    shall be scheduled to support this program.”
  1Act   of March 2, 1907, ch. 2511, 34 Stat. 1158-59.
  2Department    of Defense Regulation 4515.13-R, Air Transportation Eligibility (November 1994) (incorporating change 3, Apr. 9, 1998).



                                                                                                                                           Page 7




Page 11                                                                                                  GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Background

  Space-Available Travelers Are Placed in One of
  Six Priority Categories
  Space-available travelers are currently placed in one of six categories, on the basis of their
  status and situation. The category determines a traveler’s priority for travel; category I
  travelers are given the highest priority.
  Table 1: Space-Available Travel Priority Categories
    Category          Examples of eligible travela

    I                 Emergency leave for verified family emergencies by uniformed service members, DOD civilians, and accompanied
                      dependents

    II                Environmental and morale leave for sponsors (including uniformed service members, certain DOD civilians, and DOD
                      teachers during the school year for training) and their dependents who are stationed overseas at installations that
                      include difficult or adverse environmental conditions

    III               Ordinary leave for travel by uniformed service members and accompanied dependents

    IV                Environmental and morale leave for DOD teachers during the summer and unaccompanied dependents who are
                      stationed overseas at installations that include difficult or adverse environmental conditions

    V                 Permissive temporary duty travel for military personnel, and overseas travel by dependents who are college students
                      attending an overseas branch of a U.S. university

    VI                Travel by retired uniformed service members and their accompanied dependents, certain reservists (including “gray area
                      retirees” who are entitled to retirement pay at age 60) traveling within the United States, and Reserve Officers’ Training
                      Corps students traveling within the United States

  Source: DOD.
  a
   Examples are drawn from the DOD chart of eligible space-available travelers, priorities, and approved geographical travel segments, table C6.T1 in DOD   Page 8
  4515.13-R.




Page 12                                                                                              GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Majority of Space-Available Passengers Are in
  Categories III and VI
  Figure 1: Space-Available Usage by Travel Category from Fiscal Year 2009 through Fiscal Year 2011




                                                                                                      Page 9




Page 13                                                            GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  DOD Had Some Unused Seats for Space-
  Available Travelers
  Table 2: Space-Available Usage from Calendar Year 2009 through 2011
    Calendar year                         Space-available passengersa                                  Unused seats for space-available
                                                                                                       travelers


    2009                                  172,715                                                      60,103
    2010                                  186,550                                                      67,916
    2011                                  194,408                                                      56,725
    Total                                 553,673                                                      184,744
   Source: DOD.
   a
     Space-available passengers are the number of travelers who obtained a space-available seat on a flight. This number does not reflect the number of space-available travelers
   that did not obtain seats on their intended flights.

   Unused seats may be on routes with less-desirable destinations or during less-
   popular travel months. For example, DOD officials stated that demand for
   space-available seats during the summer months is generally higher than seats
   available.

                                                                                                                                                                           Page 10




Page 14                                                                                                         GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Over Half of Space-Available Travel Occurs between
  the United States and Overseas Locations
 During fiscal years 2009 through 2011, overseas-to-U.S. and U.S.-to-overseas
 travel routes had more space-available passengers than routes within the United
 States or between overseas locations.

 Figure 2: Number of Space-Available Passengers on U.S. and Overseas Routes




                                                                              Page 11




Page 15                                            GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Most-Used Air Terminals Have Limited
  Seats Available
  According to DOD officials, the five air terminals most used are
  • Baltimore Washington International Airport in Maryland,
  • Dover Air Force Base in Delaware,
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Hawaii,
  • Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and
  • Travis Air Force Base in California.

  DOD officials provided the number of seats used, available, and
   open for the three most-popular destinations from each of the
   five air terminals, but data for the number of travelers who did
   not obtain seats on desired flights are not collected. The data
   are from fiscal year 2011 and are displayed on the next five
   pages.
                                                                 Page 12




Page 16                                   GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Baltimore Washington International
  Airport Has Limited Seats Available
  Figure 3: Seat Usage to the Three Most-Traveled Destinations from Baltimore (Fiscal Year 2011)




                      *Overseas destination.
                                                                                         Page 13




Page 17                                                    GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Dover Air Force Base Has Limited Seats
  Available
  Figure 4: Seat Usage to the Three Most-Traveled Destinations from Dover (Fiscal Year 2011)




                      *Overseas destination.
                                                                                         Page 14




Page 18                                                    GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam Has
  Limited Seats Available
  Figure 5: Seat Usage to the Three Most-Traveled Destinations from Hickam (Fiscal Year 2011)




                      *Overseas destination.
                                                                                         Page 15




Page 19                                                   GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Ramstein Air Base Has Limited Seats
  Available
  Figure 6: Seat Usage to the Three Most-Traveled Destinations from Ramstein (Fiscal Year 2011)




                      *Overseas destination.
                                                                                         Page 16




Page 20                                                    GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Travis Air Force Base Has Limited Seats
  Available
  Figure 7: Seat Usage to the Three Most-Traveled Destinations from Travis (Fiscal Year 2011)




                      *Overseas destination.
                                                                                          Page 17




Page 21                                                    GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 1

  Seats to the Three Most-Traveled Destinations Are
  Near Capacity at Each of the Most-Used Terminals

  Seats for the three most-traveled destinations from each of the
    most-used terminals were near capacity in Fiscal Year 2011.
  • Eleven of the 15 most-traveled routes from the most-used
    terminals were U.S.-to-overseas and overseas-to-U.S.
    (international) flights and these routes were at 97.6 percent
    capacity.
  • Seats used on these routes account for around 34 percent of all of
    the international (U.S.-to-overseas, overseas-to-overseas, and
    overseas-to-U.S.) space-available seats used in Fiscal Year 2011.
  • There were 1,085 open seats in Fiscal Year 2011 for the 15 most-
    traveled routes. This is about 2 percent of the 56,725 open
    (unused) seat totals for space-available travel.

                                                                  Page 18




Page 22                                    GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
      Objective 2

  Congress Is Considering Options to Reauthorize or
  Potentially Expand the Space-Available Program

  Congress is considering reauthorizing the space-available
    travel program1 or potentially expanding the eligibility of
    travelers to include2
  • international travel for gray-area retirees and their
    dependents;
  • international travel for reservists and their dependents;
    and
  • domestic and international travel for widows and
    widowers of active duty and reservists, and their
    dependents.

  1
   S. 3254, 112th Cong. 632 (2012).
  2
   S. 2112, 112th Cong. (2012).


                                                              Page 19




Page 23                                GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  Potential Expansion Would Extend
  Eligibility to Additional Travelers
   Table 3: Number of Potentially Eligible Space-Available Travelers
                                                                                                   Widow(er)s of
                                                                                       b
                                    Gray area                          Reserves                       active duty
                                              a
                                     retirees                                                      personnel and                                        Total
                                                                                                                c
                                                                                                       reserves
    Sponsors                              37,535                        1,313,423                                16,909                          1,367,867

    Dependentsd                         408,450                         1,523,517                                45,755                          1,977,722

    Total                               445,985                         2,836,940                                62,664                         3,345,589

   Source: GAO analysis of Defense Manpower Data Center data.
   aGray area retirees are reservists who have completed 20 years of service but have not reached the age of 60. These retirees are currently eligible to travel

   space-available within the United States and certain territories. The proposed expansion would make these people eligible for international travel.
   bReserves includes the National Guard. These members are currently eligible to travel space-available only within the United States and certain territories. The

   proposed expansion would make these people eligible for international travel.
   cWidow(er)s are unremarried spouses of deceased active duty and reserve members of the armed forces. The actual number of widow(er)s eligible for space-

   available travel may be higher than shown in the table because it only includes individuals who receive federal benefits.
   d
    There may be some minor over- or under-counting of dependents because these numbers were generated using established criteria for dependents, which
   are currently under review.


                                                                                                                                                             Page 20




Page 24                                                                                                GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  Potential Expansion Would Result in
  Additional Travelers Not Obtaining Seats
  On the basis of Defense Manpower Data Center data, we estimated that the
    expansion of the space-available program would lead to additional space-available
    travelers not obtaining seats.
      • Expanding eligibility to include international travel for gray-area retirees,
         reservists, and their dependents, and domestic and international travel for
         widows and their dependents, could result in an estimated 77,000 additional
         travelers per year.
      • This estimate is based on an eligibility expansion of about 3.3 million travelers.
      • We assumed that approximately 2.3 percent of the expansion population
         would travel space available. We based this assumption on 2011 usage data,
         which indicated an approximate 2.3 percent usage by the currently eligible
         population. However, this estimate may be low since it is based on the
         percentage of eligible travelers who used space-available travel in 2011 but
         does not include those who were unable to obtain space-available seats in
         2011.
      • In calendar year 2011, approximately 194,000 of the 251,000 seats open for
         space-available travel were used, leaving about 57,000 seats unused.
      • Assuming the same number of open seats as in calendar year 2011, and that
         the 57,000 seats were filled regardless of flight destination, the expansion
         could result in about 20,000 travelers not being able to obtain space-available
         seats. However, this number is likely to be higher if additional travelers choose
         the most-used routes.

                                                                                    Page 21




Page 25                                                GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  Expansion Calculations Have Limitations

  • Expansion data do not account for whether the DOD flight destinations
    are compatible with locations where space-available travelers want to
    go and do not account for seasonal differences in usage. For example,
    11 of the 15 most-traveled destinations at the five most-used terminals
    were international destinations and near capacity, with 97.6 percent of
    the space-available seats filled. DOD officials also indicated demand for
    space-available seats during the summer months is generally higher
    than seats available.
  • Gray-area retirees and reservists are currently eligible to travel within
    the United States and certain territories, therefore their travel is also
    included in the space-available seats used on flights within the United
    States.
  • The number of available seats could be affected if the number of DOD
    missions decreases or the routes change based on force structure
    changes and mission requirements.
                                                                        Page 22




Page 26                                        GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  DOD Believes Expansion Could Adversely
  Affect Uniformed Service Members
  According to DOD officials, expanding the space-available program could
    adversely affect uniformed service members, for whom DOD created the
    program.
  For example (see fig. 8 on next page):
      • A flight with space-available seats is flying from Location A to Location
         B to Location C.
      • A retiree who is flying space available (Category VI) is able to board the
         flight at Location A, with a final destination of Location C.
      • At Location B, a uniformed service member on ordinary leave
         (Category III) is waiting to travel space available to Location C.
      • If there are no available seats remaining after departure from Location
         A, the uniformed service member cannot board this flight, because
         according to Air Mobility Command officials, the Category VI space-
         available passenger cannot be rotated off the flight at the subsequent
         stop (Location B) by a space-available traveler in a higher priority
         category.
      • This uniformed service member is required to take leave while waiting
         to obtain a space-available seat on another flight or purchase a ticket
         on a commercial flight.

                                                                            Page 23




Page 27                                           GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  DOD Believes Expansion Could Adversely
  Impact Uniformed Service Members (cont’d)
  Figure 8: Example of an Adverse Effect on a Uniformed Service Member




                                                                         Page 24




Page 28                                          GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  DOD Believes Expansion Would Increase
  Burden on Terminal Personnel
  According to DOD officials, expanding the pool of people eligible for
    space-available travel would increase the burden on terminal
    personnel.
  • Each space-available traveler requires terminal personnel
    assistance for documentation review, check-in processes,
    baggage handling, security screening, responding to travel
    questions, and transportation to and from the aircraft.
     • For example, overseas space-available travel requires
        verification of passports, visas, and other pertinent
        documentation and compliance with host-nation requirements.
        Verifying the documentation of additional travelers would
        increase the burden on personnel at the passenger services
        counter.

                                                                   Page 25




Page 29                                     GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  DOD Believes Expansion Would Lead to Additional
  Terminal Maintenance and Marginal Costs
  • DOD officials stated that space-available travelers’ use of terminal
    facilities causes additional required maintenance. For example,
    additional travelers’ use of waiting areas, restrooms, and vending
    machines in the terminals could require additional cleaning and
    maintenance.
  • While the space-available program is by law without expense to the
    United States, DOD officials estimated that expanding the program
    would result in additional marginal costs.
      • For example, if the program were to be expanded to include
         overseas travel for gray-area retirees and their dependents,
         reservists and their dependents, and travel for widows or widowers
         and their dependents, officials anticipate that an additional $1.2
         million per year in fuel costs and an additional $646,000 per year in
         manpower costs for processing travelers in terminals would be
         incurred. These estimates assume only the number of unused seats
         in calendar year 2011 (about 57,000) would be filled.


                                                                        Page 26




Page 30                                         GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  DOD Believes Budgetary Constraints and Planned
  Reductions Could Affect Future Availability of Seats

  According to DOD officials, expansion of the space-available
    program is being considered while DOD is facing budgetary
    constraints.
  • The number of seats for space-available travel could be reduced if
    the number of DOD missions decrease because of DOD efficiency
    efforts or flight routes change based on force structure changes
    and mission requirements.
  • DOD officials stated that 90-95 percent of space-available travel is
    on commercially contracted aircraft, and DOD is planning to
    reduce its use of contracted aircraft as a result of mission
    reductions and budgetary constraints.


                                                                   Page 27




Page 31                                     GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  Space-Available Travelers Interviewed at Two
  Air Terminals Were Generally Satisfied
  We interviewed 24 space-available travelers who were waiting for flights at Dover Air Force Base and
    Baltimore Washington International Airport. The results of these interviews are not generalizable to
    a larger group and only represent observations made by these specific travelers on that particular
    date at that particular location. The travelers made the following observations about their most-
    recent space-available travel experiences:
  • Nineteen of the 24 travelers had positive experiences with traveling space available.
  • Eighteen of the 24 travelers stated that their expectations for traveling space available had been
    met.
  • Twelve of the 24 travelers obtained seats on their intended flights during their most-recent space-
    available travel experiences.
  • Five travelers who did not obtain seats on their intended flights had to find lodging and wait an
    average of 5 days to get on a flight.
  • Nine of the 24 travelers were traveling alone, and the other 15 were traveling with dependents.
       • Seven of the 9 travelers traveling alone had positive experiences with traveling space
           available.
       • Twelve of the 15 travelers traveling with dependents had positive experiences with traveling
           space available.




                                                                                                 Page 28




Page 32                                                         GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  Space-Available Traveler Anecdotes Revealed
  Some Hardships
  In addition to the overall observations, the space-available travelers we
     interviewed at Dover Air Force Base and Baltimore Washington International
     Airport related the following stories about traveling space available:

  • A category II traveler at Dover Air Force Base wanted to obtain a seat on a
    morning flight to Rota, Spain. This flight had originally departed Dover for Rota
    the day before, but had to return to Dover due to mechanical difficulties. The
    category II traveler was unable to obtain a seat because the original space-
    available passengers–including passengers in lower priority categories–were
    already manifested on the flight. After not obtaining a seat on this flight, the
    traveler waited 4 more days, extended his leave, and anticipated that he would
    have to purchase a commercial ticket to Rota before his leave expired.




                                                                                Page 29




Page 33                                              GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
   Objective 2

  Space-Available Traveler Anecdotes Revealed
  Some Hardships (cont’d)
  • A category III active duty service member, traveling with four dependents,
    incurred more than $3,000 in lodging, car rental, and food expenses while
    waiting 11 days to obtain seats on a space-available flight at Baltimore
    Washington International Airport. Over the 11 days, the family attempted to
    obtain space-available seats on eight flights. Meanwhile, the active duty service
    member had to extend his leave because he could not get back to his duty
    station overseas.

  • A category VI retiree waited 3 days for a seat on a space-available flight out of
    either Dover Air Force Base or Baltimore Washington International Airport. The
    retiree had originally tried to fly with two dependents, but he sent his
    dependents on a commercial flight with the hope that he could obtain one seat
    more easily than three. With no lodging available at Dover, the retiree slept in
    his car while waiting for space-available travel.


                                                                                Page 30




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Page 34                                              GAO-12-924R Defense Logistics
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