Reliability of Airlift Data Systems

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-01-13.

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

United States
General Accounting  Offke
Washington, D.C. 20548

National Security and
International Affairs Division

B-2759 15

January 13, 1997

The Honorable William J. Perry
The Secretary of Defense

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As part of our ongoing review of the C-17 Airlifter’s performance in the Bosnia
deployment, we analyzed data in the Air Mobility Command’s @MC) Military Airlift
Integrated Report System @LAIRS) and the AMC History System (AHS). Our
preliminary findings indicate that these systems contain significant quantities of
inaccurate and unreliable data. Consequently, we are concerned that this could
undermine the Department of Defense’s (DOD) ability to (1) develop appropriate
airlift billings; (2) make fully informed command and control decisions; (3) develop
plans for future operations based on empirical information; and (4) develop
reasonable budget estimates. AMC representatives and contractors acknowledge
the problems with the data in the systems. AMC hired a contractor to resolve these
problems. However, no effort is being made to enhance the overall reliability of the

The purpose of this letter is to summarize our preliminary findings and elicit your
views on the extent and consequences of the problems with these systems and on
the actions you have taken, or plan to take, regarding the overall reliability of the
MAIRS and AHS. To that end, we are asking that you or your designee respond to
the questions at the end of this letter within 30 days of its date.


On several occasions during the course of our review, we requested access to AMC
information and/or data that substantiates AMC’s characterizations regarding the
use of the C-17 aircraft in support of the Bosnia deployment. In response, AMC
provided data from a number of its information systems, including AHS and MAIRS.
(The AHS is an on-line repository for up to 12 years of on-line history on both airlift
and tanker missions.) However, representatives of AMC and of outside contractors
hired by AMC told us that data derived from these systems are not reliable. Some
suggested that personnel completing forms or adding data to the system are not
held accountable for the accuracy of their input. Others said that some data were
never put in the system. And still others suggested that a lack of system edits and

                                     GAOBWAD-97-62R Reliability of Airlift Data Systems

an improperly configured command and control work station contributed to data

AMC is aware that AHS data is unreliable and incomplete and has taken steps to
obtain the missing data it needs for various purposes. It has continued to maintain
the MAIRS, which was slated to be eliminated more than a year ago, as an alternate
source of data. It has engaged at least two outside contractors to compare data
from AHS to MAIRS in an attempt to create a single source of the most complete
airlift data. However, neither AMC nor the contractors could state whether the
alternate sources of data were any more reliable than AHS. Furthermore,
contractor representatives we spoke to said that there is no single comprehensive
source of airlift data, either in hard copy or electronic format. As a result, when a
data element cannot be found in any of the systems, the contractor calls AMC staff
and together they attempt to determine what that data element “should be.”

We asked AMC for reliability assessments of these data systems, but AMC has
neither provided us with them nor acknowledged whether any such reliability
assessments have been made. Without adequate reliability assessments, DOD has
no assurance that the output from these systems is sound.


Our analysis of AHS revealed a number of records containing questionable
information. We obtained 5,000 AI-IS records representing 5,000 airlift sorties flown
in support of Operation Joint Endeavor during December 1995 through February
 1996. Of those 5,000 records, 438 records indicate that airlift aircraft flew missions
into Bosnia and/or Hungary during the deployment period but carried no cargo or
passengers, 57 indicate that aircraft took off but never landed, and 11 indicate
sorties that had negative flying hour lengths. While our analysis does not represent
a complete reliability assessment, it does corroborate the comments made by
several AMC and contractors regarding the accuracy and reliability of airlift data


Data in AIIS comes from the Global Decision Support System (GDSS), which is the
worldwide command and control system for strategic airlift and air refueling during
peacetime, contingencies, and war. We have not specifically reviewed the GDSS
system, but are concerned that the data in this system may also be unreliable. This
could affect numerous other activities. For example, GDSS data are intended to be
used for controlling and coordinating all mission movements and reporting their
current status during execution to command and control agencies and all affected
en route locations for each mission. In addition, AMC has used GDSS data for
airlift billing.

                                      GAOINSIAD-97-62RReliability of Airlift Data Systems

 GDSS will be the airlift information portion of the Global Transportation Network
 (GTN). GTN is intended to provide transportation users and planners throughout
 DOD with detailed information about the status of current operations and historical
 information that can be used to plan future operations. Ultimately, GTN data is
 intended to interface with the Global Command and Control System, which is
 intended to support the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders in chief in
 managing all military assets.


 We are asking that you respond to the following questions:

 1. What, from your perspective, are the consequences of using inaccurate and
 unreliable data on an-lift operations?

 2. Have specific studies been done to assess the impact of inaccurate and
 incomplete data on the accuracy of military airlift service billings, the basis for
  command and control decisions affecting the need for airlift aircraft, and the
 justification for operational and budget decisions relative to military airlift?

 3. What actions have you taken or do you plan to take to remedy these concerns?

 We are providing copies of this letter to congressional committees of jurisdiction,
 the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Director of the Office of Management and
 Budget. Your response to our inquiry will be given the same distribution. This
 letter and your response will be provided to others upon request. If you have any
 questions, please contact me or William C. Meredith, Assistant Director, at (202)

 Sincerely yours,


 Mark E. Gebicke
 Director, Military Operations
  and Capabilities Issues


                                       GAONXAD-97-62R Reliability of Airlift Data Systems
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