oversight

Special Operations Forces: Army Plans to Buy More MH-47E Helicopters Than Needed

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-02-14.

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

                      Report to the Honorable
GAO                   W illiam V. Roth, Jr., ILJ.S.Senate




                      SPECIAL
                      OPERATIONSFORCES
                      Army Plans to Buy
                      More MH-47E
                      Helicopters Than
                      Needed




GAO/NSIAD-90-l   18
                   United States
G&O                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20648

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division

                   B-238543

                   February 14, 1990

                   The Honorable William V. Roth, Jr.
                   United States Senate

                   Dear Senator Roth:

                   As requested in your July 26, 1989, letter, we are evaluating the Army’s
                   special operations forces (SOF) aircraft program. On September 26, 1989,
                   we briefed your staff on the results of our analysis of the Army’s mis-
                   sion justification for buying additional SOF helicopters. Although we
                   have not yet completed work on all questions relating to your request,
                   this report evaluates the Army’s plans to buy 34 MH-47E special opera-
                   tions helicopters, in addition to the 17 it already plans to buy, during
                   fiscal years 1990 to 1994.

                   The basic mission of SOF aviation is to provide Special Operations Forces
                   with the ability to move troops in and out of hostile territory, in a clan-
                   destine manner, under the cover of darkness and in adverse weather
                   conditions. To accomplish this mission, the SOF requires a variety of
                   fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.


                   The Army’s plan to buy 34 additional MH-47E SOF helicopters in fiscal
Results in Brief   years 1990 to 1,994, at an estimated cost of $532.0 million for procure-
                   ment and support costs, is without a sound mission-based justification.
                   In 1987, the Office of the Secretary of Defense determined that medium-
                   range SOF missions would be met with 17 MH-47E helicopters procured
                   by the Army and 41 MH-53J helicopters procured by the Air Force. The
                   Army, however, now plans to buy a total of 51 MH-47E helicopters
                   because it inappropriately believes that this number is still needed to
                   implement a 1984 Memorandum of Agreement between the Army and
                   the Air Force Chiefs of Staff, even though it was subsequently deter-
                   mined that only 17 MH-47E helicopters were needed. Because both the
                   Army and the Air Force have already contracted for the needed quanti-
                   ties of helicopters, there is no basis for procuring an additional
                   34 MH-47E helicopters.




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                      B.238543




                      The Army has requested long-lead funds in fiscal year 1990 for an addi-
A$my’s Planned        tional 34 aircraft based on a May 1984 Memorandum of Agreement
P+curement of         between the Army and the Air Force Chiefs of Staff. This agreement
MliS47E Aircraft Is   states that “the Air Force will transfer the responsibility for providing
                      rotary-wing lift support for SOF to the Army.” In 1986, in line with this
N& Warranted          agreement, the Deputy Secretary of Defense reported to the Congress
                      the need for the Army to procure 44 MH-47E special operations aircraft
                      if no MH-53J aircraft were procured by the Air Force.

                      Army officials state that full implementation of the agreement requires
                      the Army to procure 51 MH-47E aircraft in support of the medium-range
                      mission requirement. They stated that the total of 51 aircraft had been
                      derived based on the need for 44 aircraft for special operations and
                      7 aircraft to support training and maintenance requirements. The
                      desired 51 MH-47E helicopters will be made up of the 17 already under
                      contract and the additional 34 planned during fiscal years 1990 to 1994.

                      More recently, in May 1987, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for
                      International Security Affairs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Special
                      Operations Forces Airlift Issue Working Group developed SOF airlift
                      requirements, which were validated by the Commander-in-Chief of the
                      United States Special Operations Command. The Working Group identi-
                      fied short, medium, and long-range SOF mission needs according to com-
                      bat distance to be covered and specific rotary-wing aircraft needed to
                      satisfy those requirements. The short-range requirement (for up to 230
                      nautical miles) is to be met with the MH-6OK aircraft. The long-range
                      requirement (for 450 to approximately 600 nautical miles) is to be met
                      by the CV-22A aircraft. The medium-range requirement (for 230 to 450
                      nautical miles) is to be met by either the Army’s MH-47E or the Air
                      Force’s MH-53J aircraft.

                      The Special Operations Command considers the MH-53J and MH-47E
                      aircraft to be interchangeable, with each aircraft equally capable of sat-
                      isfying SOF medium-range mission needs. Both helicopters are deriva-
                      tives of existing aircraft. The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the
                      Special Operations Command agreed that neither the MH-53J nor the
                      MH-47E could satisfy the long-range requirement of special operations
                      within an acceptable level of risk.

                      In June 1987, the Deputy Secretary of Defense reported to the Congress
                      the need for 17 MH-47E aircraft and 41 MH-53J aircraft to satisfy the
                      medium-range SOF mission, based on the recommendations in the May



                      Page 2                         GAO/NSW90-118   Special Operations   Forces Aircraft
                               1987 study. The June 1987 report is the most current SOFaircraft inven-
                               tory needs list presented to the Congress. None of the officials we con-
                               tacted from the Army, the Special Operations Command, or the Office of
                               the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low
                               Intensity Conflicts could provide any definitive mission-based justifica-
                               tion or logical support for the procurement of additional MH-47E air-
                               craft. All these officials agreed that the impetus behind the request to
                               buy additional MH-47E aircraft was the May 1984 agreement between
                               the Army and the Air Force Chiefs of Staff.

..“-
Medibm-Range Helicopters       Both the Army and the Air Force are procuring SOF medium-range heli-
to Rei Delivered Into Fiscal   copters for the special operations forces. The Air Force had accepted
                               delivery on 33 of its 41 MH-53J SOF aircraft by the end of fiscal year
Year/l992                      1989. The remainder are to be delivered by the end of fiscal year 1990.
                               The first MH-47E prototype aircraft came off the production line in
                               December 1989. The remaining 16 aircraft in the Army’s initial procure-
                               ment are to be produced during fiscal years 1990, 1991, and 1992. These
                               aircraft will meet the needs for medium-range, rotary-wing SOF airlift, as
                               identified in the June 1987 report to the Congress.


                               The Congress approved the Army’s fiscal year 1990 budget request of
Army’s Fiscal Year             $107.5 million in long lead-time funds to initiate the procurement of
1996 Budget Includes           34 MH-47E aircraft beyond its requirement for 17. Including these long-
Funds for-Unneeded             lead funds, the additional 34 aircraft are estimated to cost about $532
                               million during fiscal years 1990 through 1994.
MH47E Aircraft

                               The Army’s procurement of 17 MH-47E and the Air Force’s procurement
Conblusions                    of 41 MI-I-53J aircraft meet the need for medium-range rotary-wing air-
                               lift as set forth in the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s 1987 report to the
                               Congress. The Army’s reason for procuring an additional 34 MH-47E air-
                               craft is based on an earlier Memorandum of Agreement between the Air
                               Force and the Army, which has been superseded by the 1987 report.
       I                       Therefore, we believe that the procurement of an additional 34 MH-47E
                               aircraft at a total cost of $532.0 million is not warranted.


                               We recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the
Recommendation                 Army to terminate the planned procurement of the additional 34



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                       B-236543




                       MH-47E aircraft, including the $107.5 million already approved for fis-
                       cal year 1990.


                       The Department of Defense (DOD) did not provide its official written
A ency Cornments and   comments on our draft report within the required 30-day period. How-
0 $ r Evaluation       ever, DOD and Army officials did review the draft report. They infor-
                       mally stated that they generally agreed with the facts reported but
   I                   disagreed with (1) the conclusion that 34 MH-47E helicopters were
                       unneeded and (2) the recommendation that these aircraft not be pro-
                       cured. DOD believes that it needs the additional 34 medium-range heli-
                       copters so that it can perform some of the long-range missions that
                       would have been accomplished with the now canceled V-22 program.
                       DOD officials also noted that a Joint Mission Analysis to update SOF
                       requirements is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 199 1.
                       They believe that this analysis could change DOD'S requirements.

                       The Department’s response does not provide a mission-based justifica-
                       tion or documentation supporting additional helicopter requirements
                       beyond the current 17 MH-47Es. Our analysis and report are based on
                       DOD'S most current analysis of SOF requirements-by     the Special
                       Operations Forces Airlift Issue Working Group-and the resulting
                       report of the Deputy Secretary of Defense to the Congress identifying
                       SOF aircraft needs. Moreover, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and
                       the Special Operations Command agreed that the MH-47E could not sat-
                       isfy the long-range requirement of special operations within an accepta-
                       ble level of risk. We believe that any new requirements should be
                       presented to the Congress for its consideration after DOD'S ongoing mis-
                       sion analysis is completed.

                       Department officials also stated that only $226 million of the $532 mil-
                       lion in procurement and support funds for the additional 34 MH-47E air-
                       craft would be saved if the procurement of these additional helicopters
                       were terminated. They believe that savings will be limited because the
                       Special Operations Aircraft program will be required to absorb increases
                       in development and test costs that would have been funded through the
                       canceled V-22 aircraft program. They also believe that savings will be
                       further limited as a result of contract termination penalties the Army
                       may have to pay if the planned procurement of 34 MH-47Es is canceled.

                       We disagree with the Department. Costs for MH-47E and MH-6OK
                       research, development, test, and evaluation that are caused by the can-
                       cellation of the V-22 program will occur regardless of the number of


                       Page 4                        GAO/NSIAD-90-118   Special Operations   Forces Aircraft
   I                     B-238543




                         MH-47E and MH-6OK aircraft procured. These costs will be absorbed by
                         the SOF program whether the Army procures 17 or 51 MH-47E aircraft.

                         At the time this report was written, the Army had not entered into any
                         long-lead or production contracts for the additional 34 MH-47E aircraft.
                         Consequently, penalty costs for contract termination do not apply.


                         In doing our evaluation, we conducted interviews and analyzed data at
Objectives, Scope, and   the Army’s Special Operations Aircraft Product Office, the Army
Methodology              Aviation Systems Command, St. Louis, Missouri; the United States Spe-
                         cial Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida; the
                         Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and
                         Low Intensity Conflicts, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.; and other
                         Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force special opera-
                         tions planning and acquisition activities also located at the Pentagon,
                         Washington, D.C.

                         We did our work from August through October 1989 in accordance with
                         generally accepted government auditing standards.

                         As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
                         earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report for 30 days. At
                         that time, we will send copies to the Chairmen of the Senate and House
                         Committees on Armed Services and on Appropriations; the Director,
                         Office of Management and Budget; the Secretaries of Defense and the
                         Army; and other interested parties.




                         Page 6                         GAO/NSIAD-90-118   Special Operations   Forces Aircraft
This report was prepared under the direction of Richard Davis, Director,
Army Issues, who may be reached on 275-4141 if you or your staff have
any questions. Other major contributors to this report are listed in
appendix I.

Sincerely yours,




Frank C. Conahan
Assistant Comptroller General




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Page 7   GAO/NSIAD-90-118   Special Operations   Forces Aircraft
Aphndix   I

MayorContributors to This Report


     5
National Security and   F. James Shafer, Assistant Director
Inqernational Affairs   Jana McDonough, Evaluator
   ision, Washington,

                        Gary Billen, Assistant Regional Manager
                        *John Wiethop, Evaluator-in-Charge
Office                  Carole Coffey, Evaluator




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