The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report of military aircraft availability and sustainment. It paints a pretty grim picture along with dozens of other such reports and testimony from service leaders.
The reasons for the readiness shortfalls are well known and include all the usual suspects such as depot funding, manning levels, parts shortages, overuse, stupid use, etc. I’m not going to bore you with the details. Instead, let’s jump to the report’s recommendations.
The report contained two recommendations: (1)
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment updates or issues new policy clarifying the requirements for documenting sustainment strategies for legacy weapon systems, including fixed-wing aircraft.
- The Secretary of the Navy should update or issue new guidance clarifying the requirements for documenting sustainment strategies for legacy weapon systems, including fixed-wing aircraft.
Paper was the recommendation.
More paper to write down more policies that won’t be followed any more than the previous policies.
I’ve generally liked the work done by the GAO but this was a complete failure on their part as far as the recommendations.
GAO could have issued specific recommendations to improve spare parts availability, support industry logistics, increase depot manning, modernize depot facilities, etc. – not that such recommendations would do any more good than the hundreds/thousands of recommendations that flow from reports about the military each year and are ignored and forgotten.
GAO could have made the one recommendation that would actually have an immediate and positive impact on aircraft availability:
Stop wasting aircraft hours on stupid, worthless tasks.
- Using F-18E/F Super Hornets to plink pickup trucks is idiotic in the extreme.
- Using military helos to deliver supplies in humanitarian missions is wasting the combat flight hours on non-combat tasks.
- Using top of the line Super Hornets as tankers is just plain stupid.
- Engaging in missions that only have a 10% - 20% or so chance of ordnance release, and doing so on a sustained basis, is hugely wasteful.
- Routinely launching seven+ hour sorties in a permissive environment is just wasteful. (2)
The corollary to the recommendation is
Eliminate the Combatant Commander system.
The Combatant Commander (CC) system, as we’ve discussed previously (see, "Combatant Commanders and OpTempo"), is the single biggest source of useless, pointless, worthless tasking for the military. The system operates with no checks and balances and, indeed, rewards excessive requests by the CCs.
GAO had an opportunity to make a truly meaningful recommendation and failed.
(1)Government Accountability Office, “Weapon System Sustainment”, Sep 2018, GAO-18-678,
(2)Naval Today website, “Aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt returns from seven-month deployment”,
From the article, “Approximately 70 aircraft from the squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 flew 8,319 hours and 1,164 combat sorties and performed counterterrorism operations in
, Syria , and Iraq .”
Thus, the average sortie duration was 7.1 hours. Afghanistan