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B-1B Bomber: Evaluation of Air Force Report on B-1B Operational Readiness
Assessment (Letter Report, 07/18/95, GAO/NSIAD-95-151).

Pursuant to a legislative requirement GAO reviewed the Air Force
Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) test, which was created to
determine the: (1) effectiveness of the B-1B bomber wing; and (2)
additional amounts of spares, maintenance manpower, and logistics
support necessary to achieve the aircraft's planned level of

GAO found that: (1) the data collected during ORA, and reflected in the
Air Force report, was credible; (2) ORA was designed to verify the need
to improve the various B-1B bomber components and not to provide
projections of actual costs of those improvements; (3) the $11.9 million
estimate of additional costs,to sustain the B-1B fleet, was optimistic
and the Air Force's most cost-effective way to improve the B-1B mission
capability rate; and (4) the estimate represented only costs associated
with management actions and maintainability improvements: and did not
include the initial costs incurred from initiatives in progress or
future expenditures for spare parts and repairs.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  B-1B Bomber: Evaluation of Air Force Report on B-1B 
             Operational Readiness Assessment
      DATE:  07/18/95
   SUBJECT:  Military systems analysis
             Bomber aircraft
             Combat readiness
             Aircraft maintenance
             Defense capabilities
             Military cost control
             Spare parts
             Defense contingency planning
IDENTIFIER:  Air Force Conventional Mission Upgrade Program
             Air Force B-1B Mission-Essential Subsystem List
             Air Force B-1B Operational Readiness Assessment
             B-1B Mobility Readiness Spares Package
             B-1B Aircraft
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================================================================ COVER

Report to Congressional Committees

July 1995



B-1B Bomber

=============================================================== ABBREV

  AFOTEC - Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center
  FMC - fully mission capable
  MC - mission capable
  MESL - Mission-Essential Subsystem List
  NMC - not mission capable
  ORA - Operational Readiness Assessment
  PMC - partially mission capable

=============================================================== LETTER


July 18, 1995

The Honorable Strom Thurmond, Chairman
The Honorable Sam Nunn
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate

The Honorable Ted Stevens, Chairman
The Honorable Daniel K.  Inouye
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Floyd Spence, Chairman
The Honorable Ronald V.  Dellums
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on National Security
House of Representatives

The Honorable C.  W.  Bill Young, Chairman
The Honorable John P.  Murtha
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on National Security
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

Section 132 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
1994 (Public Law 103-160) required the Air Force to test the
operational readiness rate of one B-1B bomber wing, if the wing was
provided the planned complement of spare parts, maintenance equipment
and manpower, and logistics support equipment.  The test--referred to
as the B-1B Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA)--was conducted
June 1, 1994, through November 30, 1994.  The Air Force issued its
report, "B-1B Operational Readiness Assessment Final Report," to the
congressional defense committees on February 28, 1995. 

As required by the conference report accompanying the legislation
(H.R.  103-357), we are providing our views on the ORA design and
implementation and the resulting report. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The B-1B fleet has never achieved its objective of having a
75-percent mission capable rate.\1 During the 2-year period preceding
the test, the B-1B mission capable rate averaged about 57 percent. 
According to the Air Force, a primary reason for the low mission
capable rate was the level of funding provided to support the B-1B
logistics support system.  Concerned about the low mission capable
rate, a history of B-1B problems, and the Air Force's plans to spend
$2.4 billion modifying the B-1B to become a conventional bomber, the
Congress directed the Air Force to conduct an ORA. 

The purpose of the ORA was to determine whether one B-1B wing was
capable of achieving and maintaining its planned 75-percent
operational readiness rate for a period of 6 months, if provided the
full complement of spare parts, maintenance equipment and manpower,
and logistic support equipment.  If the 75-percent planned
operational readiness rate could not be achieved, the ORA was to
provide the basis for

  an estimate of the operational readiness rate that could be
     achieved with the planned level of spares, manpower, and
     logistics support;

  an estimate of the additional amounts of spares, maintenance
     manpower, and logistics support and the added costs to achieve
     the planned operational readiness rate; and

  an enumeration of the specific factors limiting the achievable
     operational readiness rate, which would be cost-effective to
     mitigate, and the increase in operational readiness that would
     result therefrom. 

The Air Combat Command, with the assistance of the Air Force
Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC), developed the test
plan.  AFOTEC formed a test team that was the Air Force focal point
for monitoring and reporting test activities.  The unit selected for
the ORA was the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South
Dakota.  As required by the legislation, a 2-week segment of the ORA
consisted of a remote deployment.  The Air Force selected Roswell,
New Mexico, as the remote deployment site. 

\1 Mission capable means that the bomber can perform at least one of
its assigned missions.  A more detailed discussion of the Air Force
definition of mission capable is included in appendix I. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

The ORA test plan was complete and comprehensive.  Further, the ORA
was conducted in accordance with the test plan. 

The ORA demonstrated that, given a full complement of spare parts,
equipment, and manpower, the Air Force could achieve and sustain a
75-percent mission capable rate for the B-1B.  But, the ORA was not
exclusively used to project the cost of sustaining the entire B-1B
fleet at that rate.  We asked the Air Force to provide an estimate of
that cost, but the Air Force declined our request. 

At the completion of the ORA, the mission capable rate for the B-1B
fleet was about 65 percent.  The Air Force believes that the
completion of ongoing initiatives in progress and the continued
funding for spare parts and repairs will increase the fleet mission
capable rate to 72 percent.  The Air Force estimates that for an
additional $11.19 million for management actions and reliability and
maintainability improvements, the B-1B fleet has the potential to
achieve and sustain a 75-percent mission capable rate by 2000.  We
believe that the $11.19 million estimate, which was based on various
modeling techniques, is optimistic.  Neither we nor the Air Force can
predict how successful the ongoing or planned initiatives will be. 
Therefore, the potential cost to achieve and sustain a 75-percent
mission capable rate for the B-1B is still not known. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The AFOTEC test plan and the associated detailed test procedures were
comprehensive and designed to ensure the credibility of data
collected during the ORA.  Additionally, AFOTEC personnel adhered to
the detailed test procedures that specified their monitoring duties
and requirements. 

AFOTEC reported that the test unit achieved an 84.3-percent mission
capable rate during the test period.  The AFOTEC report was a fair
presentation of the actual results attained during the test. 
Further, the report was careful to put the test results in the proper
perspective by pointing out that the mission capable rate achieved
during the test was a measure of the capability of the B-1B support
structure to keep the bomber in a mission capable status, not a
measure of the effectiveness of the aircraft to execute assigned

During the 6-month ORA, we visited the 28th Bomb Wing five times,
including an on-site presence during the 2-week remote deployment
phase.  During our visits, we witnessed and documented the wing's
activities on the flight line and at the repair and supply
facilities.  We also accompanied the AFOTEC test team members as they
compared their observations with the Air Force maintenance databases
used to determine mission capable rates.  Their comparisons included
reconciling disparities noted between AFOTEC direct observations and
data entered into the Air Force database, which, if left
unreconciled, would have resulted in erroneous mission capable rates. 
Based on our monitoring efforts, we believe that the mission capable
rate data accumulated during the ORA, and reflected in the AFOTEC
report, are credible. 

An unexpected occurrence during the ORA was that the mission capable
rates for the nontest units did not decline as the Air Force had
anticipated.  In that regard, a major assumption of the test plan was
that the B-1B fleet would not have all the spare parts needed to
achieve the mission capable goal of 75 percent.  As a result, the
test plan indicated that the mission capable rates of the nontest
units would decrease as they sent spare parts to the test unit.  This
did not happen for a variety of reasons, including a changed force
structure, improved repair and distribution of spare parts, improved
maintenance practices, and the acquisition of missing defensive
avionics systems.  These reasons are discussed in appendix II. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

As previously stated, one of the test objectives was to provide an
estimate of the additional amounts of spare parts, maintenance
manpower, and logistics support and the added cost to enable the
entire B-1B fleet to sustain a 75-percent mission capable rate.  The
AFOTEC report concluded that the B-1B fleet has the potential to
achieve a 75-percent mission capable rate with an additional $11.19
million above what is currently requested in the fiscal year 1996 and
future budgets.\2 Our review indicated that the $11.19 million
estimate, which was based on various modeling techniques rather than
on ORA data, was optimistic.  It is a best case estimate that assumes
total success of the planned reliability, maintainability, and
management improvements.  The ORA was used to verify the need to
improve the reliability and maintainability of various B-1B
components, rather than provide the basis to project actual costs to
the fleet. 

According to the Air Force's report, ORA data were not representative
of the B-1B fleet.  For example, the congressional mandate to conduct
the test allowed the test unit to have 100 percent of manpower, spare
parts, and support equipment.  This level of manning and support
provided a robust repair capability that is not historically
characteristic of the B-1B fleet or virtually any other Air Force
aircraft, according to AFOTEC. 

The $11.19 million estimate is, therefore, the Air Force's estimate
of the most cost-effective way to bring the B-1B fleet to a
75-percent mission capable rate.  Table 1 summarizes the factors and
related costs that the Air Force projects will yield a 75-percent
mission capable rate by 2000. 

                           Table 1
                 Mission Capable Rate Summary

Factor                                ge        Cost
------------------------------------  --------  ------------
Historical rate                       57        None.

Improvements implemented before       65        Already
ORA (+8%) (See app. II.)                        funded. No

Initiatives in progress (+<4%)        68        Already
(See ORA report; pp.A-10,11.)                   funded. No

Future expenditures for spare         72        Continued
parts and repairs (+4%)                         funding for
                                                spares and

Management actions and unfunded       75        $11.19
reliability and maintainability                 million.
improvements (+3%)
(See ORA report; p. A-13.)
If these initiatives, both funded and unfunded, are not successful,
the cost to achieve and sustain the B-1B fleet at a 75-percent
mission capable rate will exceed the additional $11.19 million
reported by AFOTEC.  Additional spare parts will have to be purchased
or repaired more frequently. 

In addition, it should be noted that the $11.19 million estimate
represents only the costs associated with management actions and
reliability and maintainability improvements that are projected to
increase the B-1B mission capable rate from 72 percent to 75 percent. 
It does not include the cost associated with increasing the B-1B
mission capable rate from about 65 percent at the start of the ORA to
72 percent through (1) initiatives that are in progress and funded
and (2) future expenditures for spare parts and repairs in support of
the flying hour program. 

Cost data were not available for the initiatives in progress. 
Regarding spare parts and repairs, table 2 shows that the Air Force
requested $374.8 million for these items for fiscal years 1996 and

                           Table 2
               Fiscal Year 1996 Budget Request

                    (Dollars in millions)

                                    1996      1997     Total
------------------------------  --------  --------  ========
Spares/Air Force repair         $124.9\a    $116.2  $241.1\a
Contractor repair                   56.3      77.4     133.7
Total                             $181.2    $193.6    $374.8
\a Does not include $165 million for Mobility Readiness Spares
Package dedicated for wartime deployment and, as such, does not
impact mission capable growth rate. 

Funding data for future years spare parts and Air Force repair of
parts were not available.  According to the President's fiscal year
1996 budget, funding for contractor repair of B-1B parts will
continue through fiscal year 2001 at a total cost of about $122.8
million for fiscal years 1998 through 2001. 

In our view, the Air Force's report on the ORA would have been more
useful if it had included the estimated cost to sustain the B-1B
fleet based on actual ORA test data.  The resulting cost estimate
would represent the upper limit of the cost of achieving and
sustaining a 75-percent mission capable rate for the B-1B fleet based
on actual ORA test results. 

We met with the Director of Air Force Test and Evaluation on February
9, 1995, before the ORA final report was issued, to discuss our
concerns regarding the cost estimate.  Based on that discussion, the
Director, on February 16, 1995, requested the Air Combat Command to
prepare an estimate based on our concerns.  By letter dated April 17,
1995, the Director advised us that the $11.19 million "cost
effective" estimate included in the Air Force's ORA report was the
appropriate response to the congressional legislation directing the

The Air Force is projecting that the B-1B fleet will reach a
75-percent mission capable rate by 2000 by virtue of numerous
on-going and future reliability, maintainability, and management
initiatives.  In the meantime, the Congress is being requested to
fund the B-1B Conventional Mission Upgrade Program\3 --a program
estimated to cost $2.4 billion and to continue through 2007.  By
2000, the Air Force plans to have spent almost $1.4 billion on the
program.  Without a range of estimates, including an estimate based
on actual ORA experience as described above, the Congress will not
have the best information to make more informed decisions regarding
future funding for upgrading the B-1B. 

\2 This cost estimate was prepared by an Air Force cost analysis team
and independently verified by AFOTEC. 

\3 This program is intended to enhance the B-1B conventional
capability by adding precision guided munitions, upgrading the
electronic countermeasures system, and adding an antijam radio.  The
Air Force is requesting $196.6 million for the program in fiscal year

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

Before making its funding decisions on the Conventional Mission
Upgrade Program, the Congress may wish to consider requiring the Air
Force to project the actual costs of the ORA to the B-1B fleet.  This
projection would provide the Congress with more comprehensive data on
the potential cost to bring the B-1B fleet to the planned 75-percent
mission capable rate. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Defense
concurred with our findings.  It did not concur, however, with our
suggestion that the Congress require the Air Force to project the
actual costs of the ORA to the B-1B fleet. 

In its comments, the Department stated that, because the ORA actually
achieved a mission capable rate of 84.3 percent, projecting the
actual costs of the ORA as the way to improve the B-1B fleet mission
capable rate to
75 percent would likely overstate the requirement.  As we pointed out
in our report and the Department recognized in its comments, the
$11.19 million estimate the Air Force provided to the Congress
assumed that (1) management emphasis on mission capable rates would
continue, (2) planned improvements for increasing the mission capable
rates would be maintained, (3) funding levels for spares would be
sustained at projected levels, and (4) identified reliability and
maintainability and process improvements would be incorporated. 

In our view, the ORA provided the Air Force a unique opportunity to
project the cost to increase the B-1B mission capable rate based on
actual data, rather than on success oriented assumptions.  Therefore,
we continue to believe that providing a range of cost estimates based
more directly on ORA results would be useful to the Congress. 

The Department's comments are included in their entirety in appendix

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

We performed our work at headquarters, U.S.  Air Force, Washington,
D.C.; Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia; the 28th
Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; the 7th Wing,
Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; the 384 Bomb Group, McConnell Air Force
Base, Kansas; Roswell Air Industrial Center, New Mexico; and the B-1B
System Program Office, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  At
these locations, we interviewed responsible agency personnel and
reviewed applicable policies, procedures, and documents.  We
conducted our review between February 1994 and April 1995 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :7.1

We are sending copies of this report to other appropriate
congressional committees; the Secretaries of Defense and the Air
Force; and the Director, Office of Management and Budget.  We will
also provide copies to other interested parties upon request. 

If you have any questions concerning this report, please call me on
(202) 512-4841.  The major contributors to this report are listed in
appendix IV. 

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Systems Development
 and Production Issues

=========================================================== Appendix I

Mission capable is defined by Air Force Instructions 10-602 and
21-103 as an aircraft's capability to perform at least one of its
assigned peacetime or wartime missions.  As such, the mission capable
rate is the measure of the ability of the B-1B support structure to
keep the bomber in a mission capable status.  Instruction 10-602
defines fully mission capable (FMC), partially mission capable (PMC),
and not mission capable (NMC), as follows: 

  A FMC aircraft is one that can perform all assigned peacetime and
     wartime missions. 

  A PMC aircraft is one that can perform at least one, but not all,
     of its missions. 

  A NMC aircraft is one that cannot perform any of its assigned

A mission capable rate is further defined as the sum of the FMC and
PMC rates. 

An important factor in determining the rate is the Mission-Essential
Subsystem List (MESL).  Each subsystem on the MESL serves as a
required element of either a FMC or PMC aircraft.  The B-1B MESL
54 subsystems that must be operational for the bomber to be FMC. 

The B-1B can do conventional bombing missions when in a PMC status. 
At present, and during the B-1B Operational Readiness Assessment
(ORA), all of the B-1B bombers fly missions in only a PMC status. 
The reason for this is that several of the 54 systems and subsystems
listed in the MESL either do not work as planned or, as in the case
of the band 6 transmitter discussed in the following table, are not
permitted to be turned on for safety reasons.  The nonoperational
systems precluding the B-1B from being FMC, together with the current
status of those systems, are listed in table I.1. 

                                    Table I.1
                       Status of Nonoperational Systems and
                              Subsystems on the MESL

Nonoperational system      Problem                    Planned corrective action
-------------------------  -------------------------  --------------------------
Ice and Rain Protection    System melts ice that can  This system will be
(engine inlet area)        refreeze, break off, and   deleted from the MESL
                           damage the engine. Also,   because aircrews do not
                           the system does not        fly in icing conditions or
                           provide ice protection     they leave icing areas as
                           for entire engine inlet    soon as possible.\a

Window/Windshield Anti-    Maintenance personnel      This system will be
Ice Defog                  have accidentally turned   deleted from the MESL
                           on the system while on     because bleeding air from
                           the ground, which can      the engine is an alternate
                           cause the windshield to    method that can be used to
                           overheat and crack.        keep the windshield

Electronic Warfare ECM     Band 4 aft sector          Band 4 will be deleted
Band 4                     transmitter interferes     from the MESL because
                           with the Tail Warning      there are no lethal threat
                           Function system.           radars in this band.\a

Electronic Warfare ECM     Using the electronic       A corrective modification
Band 6                     countermeasures in Band 6  was tested in late April
                           has the potential to heat  1995, and the results are
                           the radar absorbing        being analyzed.
                           material around the
                           antenna, presenting a
                           fire hazard.
\a The B-1B MESL is being updated to reflect these changes. 

========================================================== Appendix II

The mission capable (MC) rate for the B-1B fleet increased about 8
percent from its historical average of about 57 percent to about 65
percent by the end of the ORA (see fig.II.1).  The Air Force
emphasized the conventional role of the B-1B in the 1992 Bomber
Roadmap after the stand-down of nuclear alert aircraft in 1991.  As
the B-1B transitioned from a role of nuclear deterrence to
conventional missions, MC rates became an important indicator of the
B-1B's ability to conduct repetitive conventional sorties.  As a
result, the Air Force took several initiatives to improve the B-1B's
support posture and MC rate.  The 8-percent improvement is
attributable primarily to a changed force structure, improved repair
and distribution of spare parts, improved maintenance practices, and
the acquisition of missing defensive avionics systems. 

   Figure II.1:  B-1B Fleet MC

   (See figure in printed

-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix II:1

Prior to 1994, the B-1B fleet operated out of four bases:  Dyess Air
Force Base, Texas; Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; McConnell
Air Force Base, Kansas; and Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. 
In 1994, the Air Force realigned the B-1B fleet by closing the Grand
Forks Air Force Base and transferring the aircraft at McConnell Air
Force Base to the Air National Guard. 

With the transfer, the B-1B support structure, including spare parts,
was distributed to the two remaining main operating bases.  The
concentration of aircraft and repair facilities at Dyess and
Ellsworth Air Force Bases resulted in improved support capabilities,
which improved MC rates. 

-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix II:2

Spare parts availability improved because of increased repair
capability, reduced reliance on contractor repair, reduced repair
cycle times, increased spare parts management oversight, and
implementation of a new computer system to oversee supply
distribution and repair of parts.  These initiatives reduced the
total NMC for supply rate, as shown in figure II.2. 

   Figure II.2:  B-1B Total NMC
   Rate for Supply

   (See figure in printed

The logistics concept for the B-1B is to have contractors do repairs
until the repair capability can be taken over by the Air Force.  Due
to funding shortfalls in 1987 and 1988, the Air Force deferred buying
some B-1B logistics support equipment, which increased reliance on
contractor repair.  As of September 1993, the B-1B fleet had a
contractor repair backlog of about 3,800 assets with an estimated
repair cost of about $31 million.  The deferred logistics support
items, however, are now funded, and the Air Force's repair capability
for the B-1B is increasing.  As of March 1995, its repair capability
was 86 percent of repairable items, with a 100-percent capability
projected by the end of fiscal year 1997.  Because of increased Air
Force repair capability and repair funding, the repair backlog was
eliminated by May 1994. 

In addition, the repairs are done faster because of process
improvements and increased reliability and availability of repair
equipment.  For example, the average repair time has been reduced
from 21 to 12 days.  Specific initiatives included: 

  The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center B-1B avionics shop increased
     its workforce from 15 to 36 people. 

  Use of express package carriers, such as Federal Express reduced
     the time aircraft await parts. 

  The Air Combat Command established the B-1B Customer Support Cell
     in July 1993 with nine staff members to monitor critical B-1B
     parts levels, distribute spare parts between bases, and direct
     item managers to provide support where it is most needed. 

  In January 1994, the Air Force adopted a new system at bases and
     depots to prioritize repairs and distribute B-1B spare parts,
     based on impact on MC rates.  Previously, the oldest
     requisitions were satisfied first, regardless of their impact on
     MC rates. 

-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix II:3

As B-1B units gained experience in performing periodic inspections
and maintenance (known as phase maintenance), the Air Force
determined that the interval between phase maintenance could be
increased from
200 flying hours to 300 flying hours.  This change reduced the number
of aircraft NMC for maintenance, as shown in figure II.3. 

   Figure II.3:  B-1B Total NMC
   Rate for Maintenance

   (See figure in printed

-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix II:4

As a result of problems encountered during the development and
production of the defensive avionics system, a number of B-1B bombers
did not have a defensive avionics system.  Because this is a mission
critical system, these bombers could not be counted as mission
capable.  The missing systems have been acquired, and the last system
was installed in April 1994.  Installation of the defensive avionics
system enabled these aircraft to achieve a PMC status, thereby having
a positive effect on the fleet's MC rates. 

(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix III
========================================================== Appendix II

(See figure in printed edition.)

========================================================== Appendix IV


Steven F.  Kuhta


Daniel J.  Hauser
Gerald W.  Wood


Virgil N.  Schroeder
Bradley L.  Terry