Drug Control: Use of National Guard Aircraft in Counter-Drug Activities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-07.

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

Use of National Guard
Aircraft in Counter-
Drug Activities


RESTRICTED--Not       to iillU&iRnteide    t&t!
General Accounthg Of&e unless specifhlly
approved by the Offke of Congressional
--   ---
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Wa&hgton,    D.C. 20648

                   National Secnrity and
                   International Affairs Division


                   September 7,199O

                   The Honorable Robert E. Wise, Jr.
                   Chairman, Subcommittee on Government
                     Information, Justice, and Agriculture
                   Committee on Government Operations
                   House of Representatives

                   Dear Mr. Chairman:

                   This report responds to your December 27, 1989, request that we review
                   the use of National Guard aircraft to fly counter-drug missions. You
                   expressed concern that using National Guard helicopters may unfairly
                   displace commercial operators who had previously performed such

                   The specific objectives of our review were to determine whether (1) it is
                   more economical for the U.S. government to have states use National
                   Guard helicopters rather than contract for commercial helicopters to fly
                   counter-drug missions, (2) cost comparisons on the use of commercial
                   versus government aircraft are being conducted in accordance with
                   Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-126, and (3) such
                   analyses have been submitted as part of each state’s justification for
                   using National Guard helicopters. After consulting with your staff, we
                   limited our review to three states-West Virginia, Hawaii, and

                   For the three states we visited, we could not determine for fiscal year
Results in Brief   1990 whether it was more economical for the government to have states
                   use National Guard helicopters instead of commercial helicopters for
                   counter-drug missions. We were told that, in fiscal year 1990, National
                   Guard units in the states did not increase their flying-hour program to
                   fly counter-drug missions; rather, the hours flown were absorbed within
                   the units’ approved flying-hour program. Neither the units nor the
                   National Guard Bureau could provide data to document this assertion;
                   however, if correct, it appears that the government incurred no added
                   costs for using National Guard helicopters for these activities. The gov-
                   ernment would have incurred added costs if commercial operators had
                   been hired to perform these activities.

                   For fiscal year 1991, however, the use of National Guard helicopters for
                   counter-drug missions may result in added costs to the government.

                   Page 1                                          GAO/NSIAIMO-205 Drug Control
             National Guard Bureau officials stated that they have preliminarily set
             aside 38,244 flying hours to support counter-drug missions; however,
             data was unavailable to determine whether the set-aside hours were
             within, or in addition to, the National Guard’s normal flying-hour pro-
             gram. If these flying hours are in excess of what the National Guard
             would have flown without a counter-drug mission, then using National
             Guard helicopters for counter-drug activities will be an added cost to the
             government. However, determining cost effectiveness must be done on a
             case-by-case basis, and would depend on such factors as the type of mis-
             sion flown, the type of military helicopter used, and the price quoted by
             commercial operators for the specific mission.

             The Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization Act for fiscal years
             1990 and 1991 does not specifically require that cost analyses be pre-
             pared to determine the cost effectiveness of using commercial or govern-
             ment aircraft for drug surveillance and eradication. Also, OMB Circular
             A-126 does not apply to the use of National Guard helicopters for drug
             surveillance and eradication that are conducted pursuant to section
             1207 of that act. The circular applies to federal executive agency activi-
             ties and not to state law enforcement activities. National Guard helicop-
             ters are in state rather than federal status while being used for counter-
             drug operations, and are used in support of state counter-drug activities;
             thus, no cost analysis was submitted as part of each state’s justification
             for using National Guard helicopters.

                    appropriations for fiscal year 1990 specifically earmarked $110
Background   DOD'S
             million for the National Guard to perform counter-drug missions. Section
             1207 of the DOD Authorization Act for fiscal years 1990 and 1991 autho-
             rizes DOD to provide funding to state governors to use National Guard
             resources to support drug interdiction and other counter-drug activities.
             The states can also use these funds to procure services and lease equip-
             ment for drug interdiction and other counter-drug activities.

             To qualify for funding, a governor must submit a plan to DOD that (1)
             specifies how National Guard personnel will be used, (2) certifies that
             counter-drug operations will take place at a time when the National
             Guard personnel are in state rather than federal status, and (3) certifies
             tha.t participation by National Guard personnel in these activities is ser-
             vice in addition to minimum annual training requirements.

             Law enforcement agencies in the three states we visited rely heavily on
             National Guard resources to fly counter-drug missions. Before passage

             Page 2                                           GAO/NSIAD!3O-205 Drug Control

                                                    I   ’
                        of the DOD Authorization Act for fiscal years 1990 and 1991, however,
                        law enforcement agencies in the three states generally obtained these
                        services from commercial aircraft operators financed through Drug
                        Enforcement Agency grants.

                        Using National Guard helicopters to fly counter-drug missions in Cali-
Cost Effectiveness of   forma, Hawaii, and West Virginia did not appear to increase expenses
Using National Guard    incurred by the U.S. government in fiscal year 1990. However, this may
Rather Than             not be the case in fiscal year 1991.
Commercial              State flying-hour programs approved by the National Guard Bureau nor-
Helicopters Is          maIly consist of a certain number of hours to meet minimum training
Unknown                 requirements, and additional flying hours as requested by the states.
                        The DOD Authorization Act for fiscal years 1990 and 1991 requires that
                        any counter-drug hours flown must be in addition to the minimum
                        training hours. According to National Guard officials in the states we
                        visited, their pilots met the minimum flying-hour requirement and their
                        counter-drug missions were within the total approved flying-hour pro-
                        gram in fiscal year 1990.

                        While we were told that flying counter-drug missions will not cause the
                        National Guard in these states to fly hours in excess of those already
                        programmed in fiscal year 1990, data to verify this statement was not
                        available. The National Guard Bureau does not maintain flying-hour
                        information necessary to verify how their flying-hour allotment was
                        used. We could not verify that the training hours beyond the minimum
                        required would have been flown without the counter-drug activities, nor
                        could we verify that DOD would have funded the additional hours
                        without the funds earmarked for counter-drug activities by the fiscal
                        year 1990 DOD Appropriations Act. Beginning in fiscal year 1991, the
                        National Guard Bureau will be able to make these determinations. Offi-
                        cials stated that the Bureau will maintain a database of hours flown in
                        support of counter-drug activities.

                        National Guard Bureau officials stated that they have preliminarily set
                        aside 38,244 flying hours in fiscal year 1991 for counter-drug missions.
                        If the flying-hour program is expanded to accommodate any portion of
                        the 38,244 flying hours, it appears that, unlike fiscal year 1990, using
                        National Guard helicopters for counter-drug activities will be an added
                        cost to the government.

                        Page 3                                         GAO/NSIAD-90-205 Drug Control


                       The DOD Authorization Act for fiscal years 1990 and 1991 does not spe-
DOD Authorization      cifically require that comparisons of operating costs of National Guard
Act Does Not Require   and commercial aircraft be a condition for DOD funding of National
Cost Analyses          Guard counter-drug flying missions. State governors are required to
                       submit a plan to DOD to qualify for such funding, and DOD must examine
                       the adequacy of each plan before funds are provided. However, require-
                       ments in the act regarding the contents of the plans (e.g., description of
                       how National Guard personnel will be used) do not indicate that a cost
                       comparison should be made. The legislative history of the act also does
                       not indicate that any such requirements were intended.

                       Without a specific requirement in the act to do so, no cost analyses are
                       currently being performed as part of the states’ counter-drug plans.

                            Circular A-126 requires federal executive agencies to perform com-
OMB Circular A-126     OMB
                       parisons of the operating costs of government and commercial aircraft
Does Not Apply         to determine whether a mission can be performed more cost effectively
                       by the private sector. This circular requires each federal agency using
                       government aircraft to justify and document the decision to use govern-
                       ment resources in cases where commercial aircraft are readily avail-
                       able.’ According to OMB officials, the circular does not require cost
                       comparisons in cases where aircraft are used to fly drug surveillance
                       and eradication missions. Officials from the Helicopter Association
                       International, the trade association of helicopter operators, stated that
                       they believe that OMB Circular A-126 does apply when aircraft are used
                       for such missions.”

                       Baaed on our analysis of OMB Circular A-126 and discussions with OMB
                       officials, we believe A-126 does not apply to the use of National Guard
                       aircraft for counter-drug activities that are conducted pursuant to sec-
                       tion 1207 of the DOD Authorization Act for fiscal years 1990 and 1991.
                       OMBCircular A-l 26 prescribes policies to be followed by federal execu-
                       tive agencies when using government aircraft to ensure that these agen-
                       cies rely on commercial aircraft services to meet their passenger and
                       cargo transportation needs where possible and cost effective. The cir-
                       cular clearly requires that government aircraft shall be used only when

                       ‘Circular A-126 sets forth the govemment’s general policy for agencies’ use of commercial aircraft
                       for the transportation of people or cargo. Circular A-126 refers to OMB Circular A-76 to determine
                       the cost effectiveness of using government or commercial aircraft for such purposes.

                       ‘Aswciation members fly approximately 76 percent of the total hours flown by all U.S. commercial

                       Page 4                                                            GAO/NSIAD-!W205 Lhwg Control

it is more cost effective than using commercial aircraft, or when com-
mercial aircraft are not available to effectively meet an agency’s trans-
portation needs. The circular requires that the use of government
aircraft be justified and documented, and that a cost comparison be
made on the use of government versus commercial aircraft.

The circular, by its terms, applies to the use of government aircraft by
federal executive branch agencies. In our opinion, the use of National
Guard aircraft while in state status for state counter-drug purposes is
not an activity of a federal executive agency. Such National Guard activ-
ities are generally conducted at the request of state law enforcement
agencies and are incorporated into the state’s plan subject to approval
by the Secretary of Defense. However, the activities are intended to
assist state governments in their drug enforcement efforts and do not
constitute a federal activity. This is supported by the DonAuthorization
Act of 1990 and 1991, which specifically requires that a governor
requesting DOD funding must certify that the counter-drug operations
are to be conducted at a time when National Guard personnel involved
are in state rather than in federal status.

If OMB Circular A-126 were made to apply to the use of National Guard
helicopters for state counter-drug activities, DOD’S system for accumu-
lating and reporting costs would require some modifications. Currently,
DOD's flying hours cost figures cannot be used for comparison with com-
mercial helicopter figures because they do not conform with cost criteria
specified by the circular. These criteria call for the comparison of cost
elements not currently reported, such as crew overtime, overhaul sala-
ries, landing fees, and aircraft lease variables. Officials at the U.S. Army
Cost and Economic Analysis Center, which maintains cost data for
National Guard helicopters, stated that they have never performed cost
comparisons for helicopters according to Circular A-126 and are not
sure what would be required or how long it might take to extract the
data necessary to perform such a comparison.

The variable costs currently available from DOD for National Guard heli-
copters differ by the type of helicopter used (see table I), but these costs
cannot be used for comparisons according to Circular A-126 because
they do not include certain cost elements required by the circular for a
proper comparison,

Page 6                                            GAO/NSIAIMO-m5   Lh-ug Control
                                     lx?%286                                                                    ‘“”

Table 1: National Guard Helicopter
Variable Costs                       We                                                                    Hourly cost
                                     OH-6                                                                         $323
                                     OH-58 A/C                                                                      379
                                     UH-1                                                                  --.____ 515
                                     OV/RV-1                                                                      1.133

                                     Law enforcement officials in the three states we visited told us that they
Differing Opinions on                increasingly use National Guard helicopters because they incur no cost
the Use of National                  as they do when using commercially available helicopters. If the law
Guard Versus                         enforcement agencies use grant funds to lease commercial aircraft, they
                                     have less money for other drug-related activities. If commercial helicop-
Commercial Aircraft                  ters are used, the state and local law enforcement agencies pay the con-
                                     tractor, typically using Drug Enforcement Agency grant funds. When
                                     the National Guard helicopters are used, DOD pays the National Guard
                                     Bureau; state and local law enforcement officials are not involved in
                                     these financial arrangements.

                                     Officials at the Helicopter Association International contend that using
                                     National Guard aircraft for drug surveillance and eradication unfairly
                                     displaces commercial operators who had previously received contracts
                                     for such activities. They believe that Association members can provide
                                     such service at a lower cost to the government than the cost incurred by
                                     using National Guard aircraft, and contend that state law enforcement
                                     agencies have no incentive to seek the lowest cost when deciding where
                                     to obtain helicopter services.

                                     Law enforcement agencies in the three states we visited had mixed opin-
                                     ions about the desirability of using the National Guard instead of com-
                                     mercial services. For example, law enforcement agency officials in West
                                     Virginia prefer to use the National Guard because of safety reasons, and,
                                     in their opinion, the National Guard helicopters are more appropriately
                                     equipped for such activities. Law enforcement officials in Hawaii told us
                                     that they prefer National Guard helicopters for surveillance activities
                                     but prefer commercial helicopters for eradication activities because
                                     commercially available helicopters were able to land in places where the
                                     National Guard helicopters could not.

                                     Page 6                                          GAO/NSIAD-SO-206 Drug Control


              To obtain information on the laws and policies governing the use of
Scopeand      National Guard resources in counter-drug activities, we analyzed perti-
Methodology   nent legislation authorizing the use of National Guard resources for
              counter-drug missions, reviewed OMB circulars governing the use of gov-
              ernment and commercial aircraft, and met with officials from the DOD,
              National Guard Bureau, and OMB. We obtained and reviewed pertinent
              documents, such as state drug eradication plans approved by DOD, as
              well as government and commercial cost methodologies.

              We limited our review to three states-West Virginia, California, and
              Hawaii. We selected West Virginia because of your concerns about the
              use of National Guard resources in that state. We added California and
              Hawaii because both are large marijuana growers, and the National
              Guard is extensively involved in drug surveillance and eradication
              there. We interviewed officials from the West Virginia Army National
              Guard and West Virginia State Police, and a commercial aircraft oper-
              ator. We .poke with officials from the Hawaii Army National Guard and
              Hawaii County Police Department, as well as with a commercial aircraft
              operator, to obtain their views. In California, we met with officials from
              the Army National Guard.

              We met with officials from the Helicopter Association International to
              discuss their concerns and to obtain information on past and present
              involvement of commercial aircraft in counter-drug activities.

              We conducted our review between February and April 1990 in accor-
              dance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

              As requested, we did not obtain written agency comments. However, we
              did discuss the information in this report with DOD and OMB officials, and
              have incorporated their comments in the report where appropriate. As
              agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents ear-
              lier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from the
              date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the
              Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Office of Management and
              Hudget, and to other interested parties upon request.

              Page 7                                           GAO/NSIAD-90-206 Drug Control


Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix I. If you have
any questions or need additional information, please call me on

Sincerely yours,

Harold J. Johnson
Director, Foreign Economic
  Assistance Issues

Page 8                                           GAO/NSIAD-90-206 Drug Control
Page 9   GAO/NSIAMJO-205 Drug Control
Appendix I

Major Contributors to This Report

                           Donald L. Patton, Assistant Director, Foreign Economic
National Security and      Assistance Issues,(202) 2755790
International Affairs      Maria J. Santos, Evaluator-in-Charge
Division,    Washington,   Delores J. Toth, Evaluator

                           Raymond J. Wyrsch, Senior Attorney
Office of General
Counsel, Washington,

(472211)                   Page 10                                       GAO/NSL4Lb9O-206 Drug Control
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