Military Bases: Mission Transfers Affecting Ellsworth Air Force Base

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-02-24.

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

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to Congressional Requesters

February 1997
                  MILITARY BASES
                  Mission Transfers
                  Affecting Ellsworth
                  Air Force Base

                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division


                   February 24, 1997

                   Senator Thomas A. Daschle
                   Senator Tim Johnson
                   United States Senate

                   As you requested, we examined the costs and benefits of several B-1B
                   aircraft mission transfers affecting the Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB)
                   located in South Dakota. Specifically, this report addresses the (1) extent
                   to which the Air Force analyzed the costs and benefits of the proposed jet
                   engine intermediate maintenance consolidation at Dyess AFB, Texas;
                   (2) costs and benefits of transferring the Route Integration
                   Instrumentation System (RIIS) from Ellsworth to Nellis AFB, Nevada; and
                   (3) reasons for and cost of constructing facilities for housing B-1B aircraft
                   at the Robins AFB in Georgia. The B-1B unit that is moving to Robins AFB
                   was previously located at Dobbins AFB and was activated in fiscal year
                   1996 when a F-15 unit was deactivated at that base.1

                   The Air Force’s mid-1995 preliminary analysis showed that consolidating
Results in Brief   B-1B engine intermediate maintenance at Dyess AFB could result in
                   savings. However, this analysis was based primarily on discussions among
                   maintenance personnel. It did not include certain factors that could reduce
                   the savings because several important decisions, such as the extent that
                   back-up capabilities would need to be retained at other bases, were not
                   made until later in calendar year 1995. Moreover, a cost/benefit analysis,
                   including estimated workload distribution, and one-time construction,
                   moving, and set-up costs, was not conducted. Such an analysis, using
                   updated data, is needed to assess whether the consolidation would in fact
                   save money and result in operating efficiencies.

                   Our analysis of Air Force data showed that transferring the RIIS, a
                   computer-based system for assessing flight crew training missions, to
                   Nellis AFB from Ellsworth, should result in annual savings of about
                   $262,000, primarily by reducing staff requirements. No significant military
                   construction is presently needed or planned for the transfer; however,
                   some modifications may be necessary to meet security requirements. If
                   projected savings are accurate and estimated one-time transfer costs do

                    The Air Force is realigning, converting, and/or deactivating some units in response to a declining
                   defense budget and changes in force structure needs. Within the Air National Guard, the six fighter
                   wing allocation required converting or closing one of the four F-15 units. Converting units from F-15s
                   to B-1Bs, rather than closure, minimizes the impact of force reductions, according to the Air Force.

                   Page 1                                                             GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

             not increase substantially, transfer costs will be recovered in less than
             3 years.

             The National Guard provided several reasons for its decision to relocate a
             newly established B-1B unit from Dobbins AFB to Robins AFB. According to
             the National Guard, moving the B-1B unit to Robins minimized personnel
             dislocations, avoided costly runway repairs, provided diversified training
             routes, and permitted collocating the B-1Bs with supporting tankers. Other
             existing B-1B bases, including Dyess, Ellsworth, and McConnell, were
             briefly considered for the B1-B unit. To put B-1B aircraft at an existing
             B-1B base, however, would have required activating an additional National
             Guard unit, while at the same time deactivating a unit. The National Guard
             estimates construction costs for the B-1B wing at Robins will total about
             $99.5 million. Construction started in October 1996 and is scheduled to be
             completed in 2001.

             B-1B units, with a total of 93 aircraft, are deployed at 5 bases in the
Background   continental United States.2 Figure 1 shows the location of units and the
             number of aircraft in them as of August 14, 1996.

              The report Air Force Bombers: Options to Retire or Restructure the Force Would Reduce Planned
             Spending (GAO/NSIAD-96-192, Sept. 30, 1996) provides more information on DOD’s bomber force
             requirements and options for reducing spending on bombers.

             Page 2                                                         GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

Figure 1: Number of Aircraft Assigned to Each B-1B Unit as of August 1996

                                 (8) 366th Composite Wing
                                   Mountain Home, Idaho       (29) 28th Bomb Wing
                                                              Ellsworth, South Dakota

                                 .                        .
                                                              .                         .   (3) 116th Bomb Wing
                         (11) 184th Bomb Wing                                                 Robins, Georgia
                           McConnell, Kansas

                                                                       (42) 7th Wing
                                                                        Dyess, Texas

                                               Source: Air Combat Command.

                                               RIIS is a data collection system used to provide feedback to air crews on
                                               their performance during flight training. Data collected from training
                                               locations around the country are transmitted to a central computer and
                                               processed into a video format. This video is then transmitted to the air
                                               crew’s home base, where it is used to brief crew members on the results of
                                               their training.

                                               Page 3                                            GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

                        Because the units at McConnell and Robins are National Guard units, the
                        National Guard Bureau and the Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC)
                        share responsibility for organizing, equipping, maintaining, and training

                        There are three levels of B-1B engine maintenance: organizational,
Need to Conduct         intermediate, and depot. Organizational and intermediate maintenance are
Cost/Benefit Analysis   performed at each base. Generally, organizational maintenance includes
of Intermediate         preventive maintenance and minor repairs that do not require engine
                        removal. Intermediate maintenance includes scheduled maintenance and
Maintenance             major repairs that generally cannot be completed without removing the
Consolidation Using     engine from the aircraft. Depot maintenance, which overhauls engines to a
                        like-new condition, is performed by the Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB,
Updated Data            Oklahoma.

                        In mid-1995, ACC led a team that performed preliminary analysis of the
                        benefits of consolidating B-1B engine intermediate maintenance activities.
                        The analysis indicated that consolidation could reduce the total number of
                        personnel authorized for intermediate maintenance units by 24: 14 active
                        duty positions and 10 National Guard positions. On the basis of fiscal year
                        1996 personnel authorizations, intermediate maintenance units would be
                        reduced from 190 to 166 positions. The ACC maintenance official who
                        conducted the study stated, however, that the analysis was based on
                        discussions among engine maintenance personnel and not on a logistics
                        composite model (LCOM)3 or formal manpower analysis of the workload to
                        be performed at each base.

                        In late 1995, the Secretary of the Air Force instructed ACC to consolidate
                        B-1B jet engine intermediate maintenance activities at Dyess AFB.
                        However, in implementing the Secretary’s decision, the maintenance
                        official stated that ACC would retain limited intermediate maintenance
                        capabilities at Ellsworth and Robins AFBs and a full intermediate
                        maintenance capability at McConnell AFB. According to the same official,
                        the limited capabilities at Ellsworth and Robins are needed to perform
                        intermediate maintenance activities that can be completed quickly,
                        thereby limiting the amount of time aircraft will be inoperable while
                        engines are in transit. Further, the full capability at McConnell is needed to
                        provide a back-up facility in the event that operations at the consolidated
                        facility are impaired.

                         The LCOM model used determines manpower requirements for B-1B jet engine intermediate
                        maintenance units using factors such as programmed flying hours, historical data on engine failures,
                        and maintenance tasks performed by the unit. Additional positions may be authorized for supervisors
                        and any maintenance that is not included in the flying-hour program.

                        Page 4                                                           GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

                     The ACC maintenance official stated in September 1996 that ACC had not
                     prepared a comprehensive cost/benefits analysis to support the decision to
                     establish a consolidated facility at Dyess. He stated that ACC had not yet
                     developed comprehensive estimates of the one-time costs of
                     consolidation, including the costs of constructing facilities and moving
                     personnel and equipment to Dyess. For example, ACC had not completed
                     its analysis of support equipment requirements for the consolidated
                     facility. In addition, a recent LCOM analysis indicates that savings may be
                     less than indicated by the preliminary analysis. According to the ACC
                     maintenance official, the LCOM analysis indicates that consolidation will
                     reduce total active duty maintenance personnel requirements by only
                     about five positions. He added that ACC had not yet obtained updated
                     information on potential National Guard staffing reductions at Robins.

                     In October 1996, the Air Force indicated that the consolidated facility at
                     Dyess AFB should be operational in January 1998, pending completion of a
                     major B-1B engine upgrade. Completing a more comprehensive cost and
                     benefits analysis prior to the consolidation could ensure that savings and
                     operating efficiencies would result from the consolidation.

                     Before September 1996, the RIIS unit was located at Ellsworth AFB and
RIIS Transfer Will   reported to a range support headquarters unit located at Nellis AFB. In
Likely Be Cost       September 1996, the RIIS unit was relocated from Ellsworth to Nellis AFB.
                     Table 1 shows that direct RIIS operating costs at Nellis are projected to be
                     about $262,000 less per year, in fiscal year 1997 dollars, than at Ellsworth.
                     As shown, annual contractor support costs at Nellis are expected to be
                     over $208,000 more than at Ellsworth; however, combined military and
                     civilian personnel costs at Nellis are expected to be almost $470,000 less
                     than at Ellsworth. We did not analyze indirect costs, such as family
                     housing and base support costs. Air Force officials stated these costs
                     would be similar at both bases.

                     Page 5                                            GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

Table 1: Direct RIIS Annual Operating
Costs at Ellsworth Compared With        Cost category                                 Ellsworth       Nellis   Difference
Nellis (1997 dollars)                   Personnel
                                          Military                                   $1,042,967    $675,172     $367,795
                                          Civilian                                      152,835      50,945      101,890
                                        Subtotal                                      1,195,802     726,117      469,685
                                        Contractors                                   1,590,551   1,799,338     (208,787)
                                        Other operation and maintenance                  30,662      30,000          662
                                        Total costs                                  $2,817,015 $2,555,455      $261,560

                                        Source: ACC.

                                        The lower personnel costs at Nellis are due to a reduction of nine
                                        positions in the RIIS unit’s personnel authorization. The RIIS unit at
                                        Ellsworth was authorized 26 positions (23 military and 3 civilian), while
                                        the unit at Nellis is authorized only 17 (16 military and 1 civilian). ACC and
                                        RIIS officials explained that the consolidation of range support missions at
                                        Nellis allowed them to eliminate several management and support

                                        ACC and RIIS officials stated that the one-time costs of moving the RIIS unit
                                        from Ellsworth and setting it up at Nellis will be less than $600,000. The
                                        largest portion of the costs are related to contractor modifications,
                                        training of personnel, and setup of the RIIS unit to make it operational.
                                        Equipment moving costs, relocation costs for military personnel, and room
                                        renovation costs to make the RIIS operational make up 25 percent of the

                                        Nellis was able to keep transfer costs for the RIIS near $600,000 by housing
                                        the equipment in an existing building that did not need extensive
                                        modifications to make it operational and ensure its security. No significant
                                        military construction is presently needed or planned for the RIIS
                                        operations; however, some building modifications may be necessary to
                                        meet security requirements. From our observations of the RIIS unit at Nellis
                                        and discussions with RIIS personnel, this arrangement appeared

                                        If projected savings at Nellis are accurate and estimated one-time transfer
                                        costs do not increase substantially, transfer costs will be recovered in less
                                        than 3 years.

                                        Page 6                                             GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

                        During the Cold War, heavy bombers were used primarily for nuclear
Military Construction   deterrence and were operated solely by the active duty Air Force.
at Robins AFB           According to the Air Force, the National Guard’s part-time workforce was
                        incompatible with the bombers’ nuclear mission because of a requirement
                        for continuously monitoring all personnel directly involved with nuclear
                        weapons. With the end of the Cold War and increased emphasis on the
                        bombers’ conventional mission, the Air Force initiated efforts to integrate
                        Guard and reserve units into the bomber force.

                        As part of its total force policy, the Air Force assigned B-1B aircraft to the
                        National Guard. Since the National Guard needed to deactivate an F-15
                        fighter unit, it decided to convert the F-15 wing at Dobbins AFB to B-1B
                        aircraft. In addition, the unit was moved to Robins AFB because, according
                        to National Guard Bureau officials, the runway at Dobbins was too short
                        for B-1Bs and there were environmental issues at Dobbins, such as noise
                        restrictions in the Atlanta area. Planning for the move started in 1992.

                        In September 1993, a component of the National Guard Bureau issued a
                        written cost/benefits analysis for relocating the 116th Fighter Wing from
                        Dobbins to Robins. The objective of the analysis was to capture the
                        one-time and recurring costs of the move and to evaluate alternative
                        construction options at Robins.

                        A National Guard official stated that there was no written analysis
                        assessing the costs and benefits of locating the 116th to another Air
                        National Guard F-15 base or an existing B-1B base. He stated that the other
                        National Guard F-15 units were located at New Orleans, Hawaii, and St.
                        Louis, and did not have suitable facilities for B-1Bs. Converting the 116th
                        Fighter Wing at Dobbins to B-1Bs and moving it to Robins minimized
                        personnel dislocations, avoided costly runway repairs, provided
                        diversified training routes, and permitted collocating the B-1Bs with
                        supporting tankers, according to the Air Force.

                        The National Guard official stated that Dyess, Ellsworth, and McConnell
                        AFBs were briefly considered for the B-1B unit, but added that those bases
                        were located in states that did not have National Guard F-15 units. To put
                        B-1Bs at an existing B-1B base would have required activating an
                        additional National Guard unit, while at the same time, deactivating a unit.
                        They added that this would not have been consistent with the Guard’s
                        policy of minimizing force reductions and that decisions to activate or
                        deactivate National Guard units are politically sensitive. In fiscal
                        year 1996, the 116th Fighter Wing at Dobbins AFB converted from F-15s to

                        Page 7                                             GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

                                   B-1B aircraft and started the move to Robins AFB. According to National
                                   Guard officials, about 90 percent of the personnel have moved and are
                                   staying in temporary quarters on Robins. About 95 percent of the vacant
                                   full-time positions have been advertised. The ground breaking ceremony
                                   for construction of new facilities occurred in October 1996. The National
                                   Guard Bureau estimates that military construction costs at Robins for the
                                   wing will total about $99.5 million as described in table 2. Construction is
                                   scheduled to be completed in 2001.

Table 2: Estimated Military
Construction Costs for the 116th   Dollars in millions
Fighter Wing at Robbins AFB                                                                                      Estimated
                                   Description of work                                                               costs
                                   Operations, command, training, personnel support, medical, dining, and
                                   civil engineer facilities                                                          $21.4
                                   Munitions storage and training facilities                                           17.1
                                   Composite aircraft maintenance complex, fuel cell, power check pad,
                                   sound suppressor to support engine testing, and corrosion control hangers
                                   with shops                                                                          13.9
                                   Site work, utilities, primary roads and parking lots, and miscellaneous
                                   structures                                                                          12.3
                                   Consolidated aircraft and hydrant refueling system, aircraft hydrant
                                   systems, and fuel storage                                                             9.4
                                   Aircraft parking aprons and taxiways                                                  8.8
                                   Hanger bay and shops                                                                  8.4
                                   Other                                                                                 8.2
                                   Total                                                                              $99.5

                                   Source: ACC.

                                   Regarding your interest about the capacity of these bases to receive the
                                   aircraft, an ACC official stated that it is uncertain whether existing facilities
                                   at Dyess and McConnell could accommodate the B-1B aircraft that were
                                   assigned to Robins. He also stated, however, that over $100 million was
                                   invested in the 1980s at Ellsworth and that Ellsworth might have had
                                   adequate facilities for the additional aircraft with only limited renovation.
                                   However, as stated previously, these bases did not have National Guard
                                   F-15 units. Therefore, putting B-1Bs at an existing B-1B base requires
                                   activating an additional National Guard unit, while at the same time,
                                   deactivating a unit.

                                   Page 8                                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

                     We recommend that the Secretary of the Air Force conduct a
Recommendation       comprehensive cost/benefits analysis to ensure that savings and operating
                     efficiencies will result from the consolidation of jet engine intermediate
                     maintenance at Dyess.

                     A draft of this report was provided to the Department of Defense (DOD)
Agency Comments      and agency comments were requested. DOD and Air Force officials
and Our Evaluation   provided oral comments. DOD and Air Force officials agreed with the facts
                     presented in the report. They did not agree, however, with the
                     recommendation to the Air Force to conduct a comprehensive
                     cost/benefits analysis of the consolidation of jet engine intermediate
                     maintenance at Dyess to ensure that savings and operating efficiencies will
                     result. The officials stated that the Air Force believes it has already done
                     sufficient analysis to support the consolidation decision. According to the
                     officials, Dyess is the logical choice because (1) the majority of the B-1B
                     force structure is currently located there, (2) the capability is sufficient to
                     handle the additional workload, and (3) it supports the Air Force goal of
                     moving toward lean logistics and two (rather than three) levels of
                     maintenance. Furthermore, the operation and mission would not be
                     significantly affected by the consolidation.

                     As stated in this report, however, the analysis supporting the decision did
                     not include certain factors that could impact the decision. This analysis
                     was based primarily on discussions among maintenance personnel and did
                     not include factors, such as the need to retain back-up capabilities and
                     retain limited intermediate capabilities at other bases. Therefore, we
                     continue to believe that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of the
                     consolidation is needed to assess whether the consolidation will save
                     money and result in operating efficiencies. This study should also include
                     the points raised by the Air Force in commenting on this report.

                     We reviewed reports and documents relevant to B-1B mission transfers
Scope and            affecting Ellsworth AFB. We also interviewed officials from Air Force
Methodology          Headquarters, ACC, the National Guard Bureau, and range support units at
                     Nellis AFB.

                     To estimate operating costs for RIIS, we used average 1997 military and
                     civilian personnel costs, including all basic benefits, provided by the Air
                     Force. We obtained personnel authorizations from unit manning

                     Page 9                                             GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases

documents and obtained operation and maintenance costs from financial
reports and other records provided by ACC.

Our review of the RIIS operations at Ellsworth AFB and Nellis AFB focused
on identifying the major operating costs at each location and the one-time
costs to transfer the operations. We concentrated on personnel and
operation and maintenance costs as the primary components of operating
costs. We discussed the basis and accuracy of the data with Air Force
officials; however, we did not independently determine the reliability of
the information. In addition, we observed RIIS operations at Nellis AFB and
discussed the RIIS construction requirements with RIIS operations and base
security officials.

We obtained information on the cost of and rationale for locating the B-1B
wing at Robins from the National Guard Bureau. We also examined
military construction project data sheets and discussed construction
requirements with an ACC official.

We performed our work between August and November 1996 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Defense and the
Air Force, interested congressional committees, and other parties. Copies
will also be made available to others on request.

If you have any questions concerning this report, please call me at
(202) 512-8412. Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix I.

David R. Warren, Director
Defense Management Issues

Page 10                                           GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases
Page 11   GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases
Appendix I

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Charles I. Patton, Jr., Associate Director
National Security and   Nomi Taslitt, Assistant Director
International Affairs   John Schaefer, Evaluator-in-Charge
Division, Washington,   Randolph Jones, Senior Evaluator
                        Alexandra Martin-Arseneau, Senior Evaluator

(709225)                Page 12                                       GAO/NSIAD-97-58 Military Bases
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