Army Reserve Readiness: Allegations of Degraded Readiness of the 5th Battalion/159th Aviation Regiment

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-08-30.

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

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                                                                   Allegations of
                                                                   Degraded Readiness of
                                                                   the 5th Battalion/
                                                                   159th Aviation
                                                                                                                                                   lllllI I 142124

(;A()/      NSIAl)-!N-2wl
                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20648

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division


                   August 30,199O

                   The Honorable James H. Bilbray
                   House of Representatives

                   Dear Mr. Bilbray:

                   In your November 15,1989, letter, you expressed concerns about the
                   readiness of U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard aviation
                   units. You specifically asked us to address allegations that the 5th
                   Battalion/l59th Aviation Regiment, an Army Reserve unit located at
                   Fort George Meade, Maryland, (1) had received helicopters from the
                   active forces that were unready and unsafe to fly, (2) lacked the neces-
                   sary spare parts to maintain its helicopters in a ready condition, (3) did
                   not know its wartime mission, and (4) did not have its full complement
                   of instructor pilots and aviation safety officers. You also asked us to
                   compare the readiness condition of the battalion to that of other avia-
                   tion units in the reserve and active forces.

                   On May 16,1990, we briefed you on the results of our work. This report
                   summarizes the information discussed at that meeting.

                   Between December 1987 and December 1988, the battalion received
Results in Brief   12 CH-47C helicopters from the active forces. At the time the battalion
                   took possession of the aircraft, 11 of the 12 aircraft were considered by
                   the battalion to be in a flyable condition1 The battalion did not perform
                   a receiving inspection, as required; however, later routine maintenance
                   inspections identified corrosion and/or engine problems on eight of the
                   helicopters. The nature of the deficiencies identified during the later
                   inspections indicates that these deficiencies probably existed at the time
                   the aircraft were transferred to the battalion.

                   The battalion has experienced problems maintaining its aircraft in a
                   ready condition over the past 2 years. As a result, the battalion’s fully-
                   mission-capable rates ranged from 6 to 61 percent, as compared with the
                   Army’s goal of 65 percent fully mission capable. These problems stem
                   principally from a significant backlog of unscheduled and scheduled
                   maintenance rather than, as alleged, a lack of spare parts.

                   ‘One helicopter was not flyable because it had an inoperable transmission.

                   Page 1                                               GAO/NSLAD-90-266 Army Reserve Readiness

             Battalion officials told us that since September 1989, they have not
             known the battalion’s wartime mission, that is, when it would be
             required to deploy, the theater of operation to which it would deploy, or
             which other units it would be required to support. The officials also told
             us that attempts to determine the battalion’s wartime tasking by
             requesting this information from higher level headquarters had not been
             successful. As a result, the battalion is not training for a specific war-
             time mission.

             The battalion has had its full complement of instructor pilots since April
             1988 and safety officers since March 1989. We did find, however, that
             the battalion did not have a written safety program, as required, until
             June 1989 when the safety officer developed the battalion’s program.

             The overall readiness condition of the battalion is typical of that of
             other CH-47C units in the reserves. The units are in the process of
             changing over to the CH-47D model helicopter and, as a result, are cate-
             gorized for readiness reporting purposes as undergoing reorganization.
             As compared to active Army aviation units, Army reserve component
             aviation units are generally less ready.

             The 6th Battalion/l59th Aviation Regiment is an Army Reserve aviation
Background   unit that flies CH-47C helicopters. The battalion’s organization includes
             a headquarters, a headquarters company, and a CH-47 aviation com-
             pany. The battalion’s general mission is to transport personnel,
             weapons, ammunition, equipment, and other cargo in general support of
             combat, combat-support, and combat-service support units.

             The battalion expects to complete its transition from CH-47C to CH-47D
             aircraft by August 1993. From the time the battalion was established in
             April 1988,’ it has been reporting a readiness status that reflected the
             fact that the unit was undergoing a reorganization or a major equipment

             %rior to April 1988, the unit was referred to as the “60th Aviation Battalion.”

             Page 2                                                GAO/NSW20-206         hy    Reserve iieadhesa

                        From December 1987 through December 1988, the battalion received
Condition of Aircraft   12 CH-47C helicopters from the active forces-l 1 from units in Ger-
Received by the         many and 1 from a unit in Fort Rucker, Alabama. According to battalion
Battalion               officials, with one exception, the helicopters were in flyable condition
                        upon receipt. However, no transfer or acceptance inspections were per-
                        formed at the time they were transferred to the battalion, and later peri-
                        odic maintenance inspections disclosed numerous problems, including
                        structural corrosion damage and damage to engines by foreign object

                        Army Technical Manual 1-1600-328-26 establishes requirements for
                        transfer and acceptance inspections of aviation equipment to ensure
                        that aircraft meet serviceability standards. However, the Aviation
                        Systems Command and the U.S. Army, Europe, agreed to waive the
                        requirement for a transfer inspection prior to shipping the helicopters to
                        the United States because a CH-47D fielding team had performed safety-
                        of-flight maintenance on the helicopters prior to shipping. The battalion
                        and its aviation support facility also did not perform acceptance inspec-
                        tions, which are to be accomplished by the activity receiving the aircraft
                        as soon as possible after they are received to ensure that all systems
                        function properly.

                        After the aircraft were received by the battalion and had been in opera-
                        tion for varying lengths of time, it identified maintenance problems, on
                        eight of the helicopters, during periodic inspections. The problems
                        included (1) severe structural damage caused by corrosion, (2) damage
                        to engines by foreign object debris, and (3) worn oil cooler lines.

                        Although inspections had not been performed at the time of transfer,
                        the nature of the problems indicates that the deficiencies probably
                        existed at the time of the transfer.

                        According to Army regulations, the fully-mission-capable goal for
Maintenance Problems    CH-47 A, B, and C model aircraft is 65 percent. That is, these aircraft
Are the Primary Cause   must be fully mission capable 65 percent of the time. The Army defines
of Degraded Readiness   an aircraft as “fully mission capable” when it can perform all of its
                        combat missions. An aircraft is considered “non-mission capable” when
                        it is not flyable due to scheduled or unscheduled maintenance or a lack
                        of spare parts.

                        Figure 1 shows that from November 1988 through April 1990, the bat-
                        talion never achieved the Army’s goal for fully-mission-capable aircraft.

                        Page 3                                 GAO/NSIADSO-265 Army Reserve Readin-

Figure 1: Mirrlon-Capable               Rates for the 5th Battalion/l59th     Aviation Regiment
loo      PeKiml



 11/88      12/88       1189     2l99       w9      4199    s/99       B/B9   7189      BIB9     9189    1om      Ill99       WI99   l/90       2lw   3/90   4/m

         -          Army’s Fully-MissIonCapable Goal
         I -- -     Fully Mission Capable

                                                           Source: GAO analysis of the battalion’s mission capability data.

                                                           As shown in figure 2, maintenance rather than the lack of spare parts
                                                           was the principal reason for the relatively high percentage of aircraft
                                                           that were non-mission capable during the l&month period.

                                                           Page 4                                                  GAO/NSIAD-90-265 Army Reserve Readimm
Figure 2: Reasons that 5th Battalion/Vdth              Aviation Regiment Aircraft Were Non-Mission Capable
loo     Peromt

 lima      121~       lB9      2B9      3&s      4B0      8B9      6B9     r/89     w00       9189    10109    llB9        12189   llg0   2l90   3/90      4l90

        -         Non-Mission Capable - Spare Parts Pmblems
        LI I I    Non-Mission Capable - Maintenance Problems

                                                        Source: GAO analysis of the battalion’s mission capability data.

                                                        According to battalion officials, the battalion has experienced a signifi-
                                                        cant number of unexpected maintenance problems with the aircraft.
                                                        These problems, coupled with the fact that the battalion’s aircraft are
                                                        serviced at the same maintenance facility as other units’ aircraft, often
                                                        cause battalion aircraft to be out of service for prolonged periods.

                                                        Battalion officials told us they do not know the unit’s current wartime
Battalion Does Not                                      mission taskings. They do not know the theater of operation to which
Know Its Wartime                                        the battalion will deploy, the time frame in which it will deploy, or the
Mission                                                 units it will be required to support. As a result, the battalion does not
                                                        train to a specific wartime mission. Instead, its training has been
                                                        directed toward general aviation rather than mission-specific training.

                                                        In September 1989, the 31st Combat Aviation Group advised the bat-
                                                        talion that it was no longer assigned to the Group in wartime.3 Since
                                                        then, the battalion has made limited attempts to determine its wartime

                                                        3This Group was the active-duty organization to which the battalion was assigned in the event of

                                                        Page 5                                                  GAO/NSIAD-90-206 Army Retserve Readiness


                         tasking. After we completed our review in June 1990, battalion officials
                         told us that they had sent a letter to U.S. Army Forces Command,
                         through command channels, explaining the situation and requesting
                         assistance in determining the battalion’s wartime assignment and

                         The battalion has had its full complement of three instructor pilots since
Battalion Has Its Full   April 1988 and its full complement of two aviation safety officers since
Complement of            March 1989.
Instructor Pilots and    An instructor pilot was first assigned to the battalion in September
Safety Officers          198’7. Between then and April 1988, two other instructor pilots were
                         assigned, and in February 1989, a fourth instructor pilot was assigned.

                         The battalion’s roster has also included an aviation safety officer since
                         September 1987. However, shortly after the safety officer was assigned,
                         the individual was sent to a maintenance school. After completing the
                         school, the individual was reassigned to another unit. Battalion officials
                         told us that the battalion’s aviation safety programs were nonexistent
                         until about September 1988 when another aviation safety officer was
                         assigned. A second aviation safety officer was assigned in March 1989.
                         Between September 1988 and June 1989, the safety officers developed
                         company- and battalion-level safety programs.

                         Even though the battalion has not always had its full complement of
                         instructor pilots or safety officers, it has never had an aviation accident
                         or failed any command-level safety inspections4 In fact, the 97th Army
                         Reserve Command commended the battalion in October 1989 on its
                         safety training.

                         4This fact also holds true for the period when the unit was the 60th Aviation Battalion.

                         Page 6                                                GAO/NSIAD-90-265 Army Reserve Readiness

                        In August 1986, the Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Status of
Aviation Units in the   Resources and Training System as the criteria for the services to use in
Active Forces           reporting unit training levels and the condition of personnel, supplies,
Generally Report        and equipment. Each active and reserve component unit reports an
                        overall unit resource and training rating (a “C-rating”) based on the
Higher Readiness        lowest of the C-ratings for personnel, equipment on hand, training, and
Levels Than Those in    equipment readiness.” As a general rule, those Army aviation units in
the Army Reserve        the active forces assigned to U.S. Army Forces Command report higher
                        readiness ratings than do the aviation units in the Army Reserve and
Components              National Guard. For example, as of May 16, 1990,66 percent of the
                        active Army aviation units assigned to U.S. Army Forces Command
                        reported that they could perform at least a major portion of their
                        assigned wartime missions, whereas only 47 percent of the aviation
                        units in the reserve components reported that capability.

                        To put the issue in perspective, it should be recognized that about
                        60 percent of all Army aviation units are assigned to U.S. Army Forces
                        Command and about two-thirds of these units are in the reserves. There-
                        fore, the degraded readiness of reserve component aviation units could
                        have a significant effect on the ability of the Army to accomplish its
                        assigned wartime aviation missions. As shown in figure 3, the lowest
                        readiness levels occurred in the Army Reserve, where only about 4 per-
                        cent of the units reported the ability to perform a major portion of their
                        wartime missions. The low percentage is largely due to the fact that
                        about 90 percent of the Army Reserve units were undergoing some form
                        of reorganization.

                        ““c” levels are defied as follows:
                        C-l: The unit can undertake its full wartime mission.
                        C-2: The unit can undertake the bulk of its wartime mission.
                        C-3: The unit can undertake a msjor portion of its wartime mission.
                        C4: The unit requires additional resources or training to undertake its wartime mission.
                        C-6: The unit is undergoing a service-directed resource change or is authorized personnel and/or
                        equipment at a level that does not allow it to achieve a C3 or higher rating.

                        Page 7                                                GAO/NSIALHO-265      Amy    Reserve Readiness

Figure 3: Readiness Levels Reported for
U.S. Army Forces Command Aviation
Units (As of May 15, 1990)

                                          Fhdlnsa       Levolo of Forces Command Aviation Units

                                                    I         C-4 and C-5 Readiness Levels
                                                              C-l to C-3 Readiness Levels

                                           Note: In peace time, Army National Guard units report their readiness status to Forces Command. Upon
                                           mobilization, these units may or may not be assigned to Forces Command.
                                           Sauce: GAO analysis of Status of Resources and Training System data.

                                           Our analysis of the reasons that units were unable to achieve C-l readi-
                                           ness levels showed that the primary reason was that the units had been
                                           categorized as undergoing a reorganization and therefore had been
                                           authorized personnel and equipment levels that precluded them from
                                           achieving C-l readiness ratings. The second most prevalent reason was
                                           poor condition of equipment on hand, and the third was a shortage of
                                           equipment as compared to what was authorized. To a lesser extent, per-
                                           sonnel shortages and lack of training were cited as reasons for not
                                           achieving a C-l readiness rating. Figure 4 shows the percentage of
                                           active and reserve aviation units that cited each of the above reasons
                                           for not achieving a C-l readiness rating as of May 15, 1990.

                                           Page 8                                                 GAO/NSIADSO-265 Army Reserve Readiness
Figure 4: Primary Reason8 Cited for
Units’ inability to Achieve Cl Readiness   100   Pwcont










                                                  Army Actlve              Army National      Army Rertva        Total Forces
                                                  Unltr                    Guard Units        Unita              Command
                                                                                                                 Aviation Units
                                                  Forces Command Aviation Unitr

                                                 I        1 Authorized Level of Orwnization

                                                              Personnel Shortages
                                                              Degraded Equipment Readiness
                                                              Equipment Shortages

                                                 m            Lack of Training

                                           Note: “Authorized level of organization” applies to units that are authorized personnel and equipment
                                           levels that preclude them from achieving C-l readiness levels. Also included are units that are under-
                                           going reorganization.

                                           Source: GAO analysis of Status of Resources and Training System data

                                           Our review indicated that the battalion’s overall readiness posture is
                                           typical of the posture of all CH-47C units. There are six CH-47C units
                                           under the U.S. Army Forces Command-three in the Army Reserve and
                                           three in the Army National Guard. All six units are changing over to the
                                           CH-47D model aircraft, and all except one are reporting readiness levels
                                           that show the units are undergoing reorganization. The one unit that did
                                           not report that readiness level reported a higher readiness level based
                                           on the commander’s judgment.

                                           Page 9                                                   GAO/NSIAD-BO-265 Army Reserve Readiness

              We performed our review at U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort
Scopeand      McPherson, Georgia, and First Army Headquarters, 97th Army Reserve
Methodology   Command, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, Aviation Support Facility, and
              6th Battalion/l59th Aviation Regiment, Fort George Meade, Maryland.

              We discussed each allegation with the person who made it and with offi-
              cials at the battalion; the Army Reserve Command; Headquarters,
              Department of the Army; and Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces
              Command. We also reviewed maintenance inspection reports as well as
              other records and documents.

              Concerning the allegation that the battalion lacked spare parts to prop
              erly maintain its aircraft, we reviewed mission capability reports for a
              recent l&month period to determine whether the low percentage of
              fully-mission-capable aircraft indicated a spare parts or a maintenance

              To address the allegations that the battalion did not know its wartime
              mission taskings and that it lacked instructor pilots and aviation safety
              officers, we held discussions with battalion officials and officials at the
              Army Reserve Command. We also reviewed personnel roster reports to
              determine when the authorized personnel had been assigned to the bat-
              talion and whether it had its full complement of authorized instructor
              pilots and safety officers.

              We reviewed Status of Resources and Training System data reported by
              aviation units as of May 15, 1990, to determine their reported readiness
              levels and the primary reason units identified as contributing to less
              than fully ready conditions.

              We conducted our review from April to June 1990 in accordance with
              generally accepted government auditing standards. As requested, we did
              not obtain official agency comments on this report. However, we dis-
              cussed its contents with Army headquarters and Department of Defense
              officials and incorporated their views where appropriate.

              We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
              committees, other interested Members of Congress, and the Secretaries
              of Defense and the Army. We will make copies available to other parties
         Y    upon request.

              Page 10                                 GAO/NSIAlMO-266 Army Reserve Readiness

    If you or your staff have any questions concerning the information
    presented in this report, please call me at (202) 2754141. Other major
    contributors are listed in appendix I.

    Sincerely yours,

    Richard Davis
    Director, Army Issues

    Page 11                               GAO/NSlAIHtk265   Army Reserve Readlneea
Appendix I

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Henry L. Hinton, Associate Director
National Security and   Robert J. Lane, Assistant Director
International Affairs
Division, Washington,
                        Leo B. Sullivan, Evaluator-in-Charge
Atlanta Regional        Kimberly A. Bowers, Staff Member

(999895)                Page 12                                GAO/NSIAD-96.266 Army Reserve Readiness
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