3 United States General Accounting Office Report to Congressional Requesters December 1990 WEAPONS PRODUCTION Impacts of Production Rate Changes on Aircraft Unit Costs i GAO United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 National Security and International Affairs Division R-241189 December 18,199O The Honorable Robert C. Byrd Chairman, Committee on Appropriations United States Senate The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye Chairman, Subcommittee on Defense Committee on Appropriations I inited States Senatcl As you requested. we have reviewed the sensitivity of estimated pro- curement costs of selected military aircraft programs to reductions in numbers of aircraft purchased per year.’ The growing need t,o decrease the federal budget deficit and a dimin- Background ishing threat from the Soviet lJnion and the virtual collapse of the Warsaw Pact as a military alliance make the defense budget a prime candidate for budget cuts. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) efforts to identify where these cuts can be made have caused it to examine weapon systems’ quantity requirements and procurement rates. For example, a recent ma,jor aircraft review by the Secretary of Defense pro- posed significant reductions in the procurement of the C-17, B-Z, and A-l 2 aircraft. The Congress has been concerned that D@D has historically planned for higher production rates of its weapon systems and lower unit costs than are actually realized. When funding limitations reduce the planned annual procurement rate, unit costs generally increase. The Congress has called for an end to this optimistic planning and is evaluating the appropriate level of procurement for several weapon systems. Aircraft procurement unit costs generally increase as their procurement Results in Brief rates decrease. However. some mature Air Force and Navy procurement programs, including those for the KC-135R engine modification, F/A-18, F-l 6. AV-SB, and F- 15. would not show as significant a unit cost increase as other aircraft programs if their procurement rates were decreased. For example, using Navy assumptions, a 25 percent decrease in the ‘The number of aircraft systrms the Air Forcr and Navy are authorized to buy per year is sometimes referrpd tn as the procuremt~nt rate Page 1 GAO/NSIAD91-12 Aircraft Unit Costs Is241189 The data in the following tables show the effect of only short-term and unanticipated production rate changes. IJnit cost increases can be sub- stantially moderated by the extent contractors can plan for production rate changes and are willing to make reductions in overhead and other fixed costs. Initiatives such as multiyear procurements can assist the contractors in planning for such reductions. For example, when the AV-8B was reduced from a 56-per-year annual procurement to a 23-per-year multiyear pro- curement, the unit cost increased 12 percent. Representatives of one major aircraft manufacturer stated that the earlier they know of a rate change the less sensitive the unit costs will be to the changes. In some cases production rate changes in one program can impact the unit cost of other programs. For example, the F-15 contractor’s facility currently houses two other aircraft production programs (the F/A-18 and the AV-8B). KC-135R Aircraft The KC-135R’s unit cost is relatively insensitive to the rate at which the engines are procured and the modification kits are installed. The Air Force is modifying KC-135A strategic tanker aircraft to replace the existing engines, strengthen the main landing gear, and make other system improvements. The modified aircraft, designated KC-135R, was first delivered in .June 1982. The design of the modification is stable, having been in production for 8 years. The Air Force procured 29 air- craft modifications with fiscal year 1990 funding. The cost of engines to be installed during the modification efforts repre- sents over 60 percent of the annual component cost of the program. Because the engine is primarily produced for commercial use and, according to the contractor’s representative, a clause in the Air Force contract provides for varying quantities within certain limits, changes in the Air Force’s procurement rates do not significantly affect the unit cost of that engine. The prime contractor has several other manufacturing and modification programs in its business base. If the annual quantities of the KC-135R are reduced, the contractor can move some direct and sustaining labor to Page 3 GAO/NSIADSl-12 Aircraft Unit Costs E-241189 decreased by 25 percent (from 72 to 54 aircraft). If the procurement rate is halved, however, there will be a 24 percent increase in unit cost. Table 2: Sensitivity of Unit Cost to F/A-18 Quantities Procured Dollars III millions (Fiscal Year 1990) Proc<rerkt&te decrease/ Quantity Unit cost percent increase procured Unit cost change 50% decrease 36 $31 9 t24 25% decrease 54 27 8 53 Est~r&ed~program 72 -~ 25 7 0 25% bncrease 90 24 0 -7 50% mcrease 108 22 9 -Ii F-l 6 Aircraft The F-16 aircraft’s unit cost is also relatively insensitive to procurement rate changes when the rate is reduced by 25 percent. It has been in pro- duction since 1977 The Air Force has acquired the F-16 under multiyear contracts since 1982 and is currently negotiating a multiyear contract to fill fiscal year 1990 through 1993 procurement requirements. The F-16 has had many configuration changes that have increased the cost of the aircraft. According to the prime contractor, multiyear contracting has helped offset the magnitude of the potential cost increases by stabilizing the production line and by permitting t.he contractor to obtain volume discounts for some parts and materials. The contractor also has sold a relatively large number of F-16s to for- eign customers for many years. It has sold over 100 F-16 aircraft each to Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and the Netherlands. In fiscal year 1990, the Air Force reduced its procurement request to 108 per year, expecting that foreign sales would keep production at a minimum efficient rate of 120 aircraft per year. Table 3 shows the Air Force’s projected F-16 procurement unit cost sen- sitivity at varying rates. It projects an increase of about 12 percent in procurement unit costs if the procurement rate is decreased by 25 per- cent (from 120 to 90 aircraft). It also projects that if the number of air- craft bought is halved, there would be a 34 percent increase in unit cost. Page 5 GAO/NSIADSl-12 Aircraft Unit Costs ___- 5241189 Table 4: AV-8B Procurement Unit Costs (III Fiscal Year 1989 Prices) Dollars in mullions U.S. Navy- Foreign Fiscal year quantity quantity Total units Unit price 1986 46 24 70 $122 I 987 42 24 86 110 i 988189 32 24 56 11 1 1989/MYPd 16 7 23 12.4 199O/MYP 24 0 24 124 1991lMYP 24 0 24 124 aMYP IS the acronym for multlyear procurement F-l 5 Aircraft The Air Force’s F- 15 is also relatively insensitive to procurement rate changes when the number of aircraft to be bought is reduced by 25 per- cent. It has been in production since the early 1970s and has been pro- duced in five major models. The final procurement of the current version, the F-lSE, is scheduled for fiscal year 1991. The history of F- 15 production shows how labor and overhead can be minimized when production rates are reduced. According to the prime contractor, it could absorb the impact of modest reductions in the F-15 procurement rate by moving some of its direct factory labor to other production lines in the facility where additional personnel are needed to fill attrition or program expansion vacancies. It could also move some of its sustaining engineers to fill vacancies in other in-house programs. In fiscal year 1989, the F-15 procurement quantity was reduced from 42 to 36 aircraft per year. The negotiated unit price did not increase signifi- cantly (less than 4 percent). Total program funding (in 1989 dollars) was reduced by about $38 million. Table 5 shows the Air Force’s projected unit procurement cost sensi- tivity for varying annual quantities. It projects a recurring flyaway unit, cost increase of about 10 percent when the procurement rate is decreased by 25 percent, (from 36 to 27 aircraft).’ If the number to be purchased per year is halved, there will be a 28 percent increase in unit cost. ‘The F-16 data is presented as recurrmg flyaway costs becausethat is how the program office figures F-IF, c&s. Recurring flyaway costs should mclude those elements (such as fabrication, assembly, and manufacturing) that o(‘cw rep~~trdly dunng production. Page 7 GAO/NSIADSl-12 Aircraft Unit Costs 5241189 the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Production and Logistics. Our work was conducted between September 1989 and July 1990 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As requested we did not obtain written agency comments on this report. However, we discussed a draft of this report with DOD and Air Force officials, and their comments have been incorporated where appropriate. I.nless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 7 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the Chairmen, House Committees on Appropriations and on Government Operations and Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, and the Secretaries of Defense, the Navy, and the Air Force. Copies will be made available to other interested parties on request. This report was prepared under the direction of Paul F. Math, Director, Research. Development, Acquisition and Procurement Issues, who may be reached on (202) 2754587 if you or your staff have any questions. The major contributors to this report are listed in appendix I. Frank C. Conahan Assistant Comptroller General Page 9 GAO/NSLADSI-12 Aircraft Unit Costs . .,. ,-,,- . . ,. .,. . -,, ,,.. - . . . ,._,,..,. I._ ,,_,.,. . . -... ,I,.,, ,,,. i Ordering Information The first five copies of each GAO report are f+s Addit@ ti ‘- copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to tbe folhwing address, accompanied by a check or money order made opt to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. Or&&s for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a s ingle address are discounted 25 percent. U.S. General Accounting O ffice P. 0. Box 6015 G a ithersburg, MD 20877 Ths-i-~~A~alli,~L~ 27K Appendix I Major Contributors to This Report Michael E. Motley, Associate Director National Security and James Wiggins, Assistant Director International Affairs Thomas Mills, Issue Area Adviser Division, Washington, John Potochney, Senior Evaluator D.C. Robert Murphy, Issue Area Manager Cincinnati Regional Rae Ann Sapp, Evaluator-In-Charge Office .JamesGabriel, Evalrlator .Johnetta Gatlin-Hrown, Evaluator (xw725) Page 10 GAO/NSIAW91-12 Aircraft Unit Costs _~-.--- ~ ~ B-241189 Table 5: Sensitivity of Unit Cost to F-15 Quantities Procured Dollarsin millions (Fiscal Year 1990) Unit cost percent Proc&ement rate decrease/ Quantity increase procured Unit cost change 50% decrease 18 $42 9 +28 25% decrease 27 368 +10 Estimated program 36 33 5 0 25% ncrease 45 32 0 -4 SO% Increase 54 31 2 -7 The fact that thc~unit cost of some aircraft systems could be less sensi- Conclusions tive to a decreasesin production rates than others is not by itself suffi- cient reason to fa\-or extending production at lower rates. From the point of view of wving money, t,erminating production might be the more sensible choicts. It should also be noted that unit costs are less sen- sitive when rate rt>ductions are planned and fixed costs can be reduced. For this reason (.ontract ors should be given sufficient advanced notice of production rak tl~c~as~s. In any case, the information in this report should not be inttq~rctc~d as meaning that stretching out production is preferable to terminating programs. Each aircraft system must be evalu- ated on a case-by-(XiIsehasis. Nevertheless, L~H)D’ unit s cost pro.jections for aircraft and othtlr dcfcnse systems could assist the Congress in deter- mining the costs of strt,tching out production of some systems. To evaluate the stbnsitivity of procurement unit costs to procurement Scope and rate changes, MV’obtained and analyzed cost data from the DOD planning Methodology and budgeting cyc4t5s.We also reviewed program office cost estimates and compared that information with other DOD documents. We discussed with program officials and prime contractors the various factors that could influence aircraft unit costs. To obtain an under- standing of the aircraft manufacturing process and the factors that can influence unit costs. M’Omet with officials from McDonnell Douglas Air- craft Corporation. St. lJouis, Missouri; General Dynamics Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas; and Hoeing Military Airplane Company, Wichita, Kansas. We also tolu-4 their aircraft facilities, In addition. w(’dkussed these factors with DODofficials located at each contractor facility. 1)rogram office manufacturing and cost-estimating specialists, Air Forrr and Navy headcmarters officials. and officials in Pa@?A GAO/NSIADSl-12 Aircraft Unit Costs H-241189 Table 3: Sensitivity of Unit Cost to F-16 Quantities Procured Dollars in mllllons tF\scalYear 1990) Procurement rate decrease/ Quantity Unit cost percent increase procured Unit cost change 50%d<cre:se 60 $341 t34 25% decrease 90 -~ 286 t12 EstlmGed Program 120 ~. 255 0 25% \ncrease 150 235 -0 50% ncrease -180 230 -10 AV-8B Aircraft The Navy’s AV-8B Marine Corps attack aircraft unit cost is relatively insensitive to procurement rate changes. In fiscal year 1989, the Navy was given the authority to enter into a 3-year contract for annual quan- tities of 24 AV-SB aircraft.” This quantity was significantly below the prior years’ procurement quantities. The reduction increased the pro- curement unit cost by about 12 percent. According to the Navy, unit costs would have increased more significantly, but multiyear procure- ment enabled the contractor to stabilize the work force and to obtain volume discounts for parts and materials. According to the Navy, for- eign military sales avoided production line stoppages. Table 4 shows Navy AV-8B contract prices at various procurement quantitiesI’ Foreign procurements are included because they are priced along with the Navy procurements. Despite a total quantity decrease of over 62 percent (from 66 in fiscal year 1987 to 23 in fiscal year 1989), a comparison of the lowest unit price ($11 million in fiscal year 1987) with the multiyear unit price ($12.4 million) shows an increase of about, 12 percent in unit price. ‘In fiscal year 1988,S aircraft were prospectively priced for fiscal year 1989. As a result, the multi- year quantity of 24 aircraft was derremed to 16 for 1989. "'The table shows contrwl pncing information becausethe AV-8R program office did not provide unit rest sensltwity data Page 6 GAO/NSL&D-91.12 Aircraft Unit asts 5241199 other projects in the facility.4 The ability to shift labor to other projects in which personnel are needed to fill vacancies can reduce potential increases in both direct labor and overhead charges. Table 1 shows the Air Force’s projected KC-135R procurement unit cost sensitivity for varying annual procurement rates in fiscal year 1990. This table projects an increase of about 3 percent in unit cost if the number to be purchased is decreased by 33 percent (from 36 to 24 air- craft) and a 6 percent increase in unit cost if the quantity is halved (from 36 to 18). Table 1: Sensitivity of Unit Cost to KC-13% Quantities Procured Dollars in mihons (Fiscal Year 1990) Procurement rate decrease/ Quantity Unit cost percent increase procured ~.~ Unit cost change 50% decrease 18 $187 46 33% decrease 24 18 1 c3 Estimated program 36 176 0 25% increase 45 17 1 -3 50% bncrease 54 165 -6 F/A-18 Aircraft The unit cost for the Navy’s F/A-18 aircraft is relatively insensitive to the rate at which units are procured, especially when the procurement rate is reduced by 25 percent. The F/A-18 is a mature program; it had its first flight in 1978 and reached its initial operating capability in 1983. According to DOD, the Navy contractor can use foreign military sales to stabilize the F/A-l8 production line and unit prices. DOD reduced the planned procurement in fiscal year 1990 from 84 aircraft per year to 72 and then to 66 aircraft, resulting in a reduction of almost $800 million in planned funding levels. Navy officials considered 84 aircraft per year as the minimum economical production rate based on an 8-hour workshift working five days a week. The officials believed that foreign sales could compensate for the decreased procurement rate and keep the production line operating at an economic rate. Table 2 shows the projected unit procurement cost of the F/A-18 in fiscal year 1990 at various annual procurement rates. It projects an increase of about 8 percent in unit cost if the procurement rate is ‘Sustaining labor is labor that supports the manufacturing process. It includes such items as vngi- neering, tooling, drawing mamtenance,or technical support Direct labor is labor that can be specifi- cally and consistently identified or assignedto a particular work order/contract and that bears full overhead Page 4 GAO/NSIADSl-12 Aircraft Unit C&as E241189 F/A-18 procurement rate would increase unit cost by about 8 percent; for the E-ZC, however, a 25 percent procurement rate decrease would increase unit cost by 25 percent.2 According to contractors, the procurement unit cost of some mature air- craft systems is less sensitive to procurement rate reductions when at least one of the following factors is present: (1) contractors have an opportunity to manage overhead and other costs in anticipation of pro duction rate changes, (2) foreign customers’requirements can offset reductions in the U.S. procurement quantities, and/or (3) multiyear pro- curement can be used to stabilize prices over a longer production period. Also according to contractors, unit cost is especially sensitive to sudden unanticipated changes in production rates. IJnit costs are less sensitive when rate reductions are planned and fixed costs such as overhead and facilities can be reduced. These circumstances demonstrate the importance of program stability. When procurement rate decreases need to be made, contractors should be given sufficient advance notice so they can eliminate unnecessary facility, overhead, and other costs before the production rate decreases begin. Our review of seven mature aircraft programs using military service Unit Cost Sensitivity projections indicated that the procurement unit cost of some aircraft Varies Among Aircraft may be less sensitive to rate changes than others.3 When the number of Programs E-2C and EA-6B aircraft to be purchased per year is decreased by 25 percent, their projected unit costs increase 25 and 21 percent, respec- tively. A 50 percent decrease in the E-2C’s and EA-6B’s procurement, rates would increase unit cost by 53 and 64 percent, respectively. On the other hand, unit costs estimates for aircraft programs such as the KC-135R modifications, F/A-18, F-16, AV-BB, and F-15 are not as sensi- tive to decreased procurement rates. Because each of these systems is affected by different conditions, we evaluated unit cost sensitivity to production rate changes on a case-by-casebasis. ‘The E-X is also a mature system, but becauseof its relatively low production rate (six m 1989 and four in 1990). its unit cost is especially sensitive to production rate decreases. “The projections noted m this report are based on the military services’assumptions of charges in overhead and other fixed costs. Page 2 GAO/heyLpelat Aircraft Unit Costs
Weapons Production: Impacts of Production Rate Changes on Aircraft Unit Costs
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-12-18.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)