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Analysis

Fielding Deficiencies

Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, POGO obtained an April 2005 Naval Audit Service report that examined the resolution of weapon system deficiencies identified during testing. 109 major deficiencies identified in the last five years during Navy Operational Testing and Evaluation (OPEVAL) were audited by the Naval Audit Service. Most deficiencies remained when the weapons were fielded and a majority still exist up to five years after passing OPEVAL.

A major deficiency is defined as adversely affecting “the accomplishment of an operational or mission-essential capability, and no work-around solution is known” (page 1; emphasis Naval Audit Service's). Weapon systems with major deficiencies are considered "to be at risk of not meeting user requirements for operational suitability and effectiveness." (page 2)

This report has not been publicly available on the Internet, until now. Previously, the public could obtain copies only by making FOIA requests to the Naval Audit Service. Like the Army and Air Force audit arms, the Naval Audit Service does not make their audit reports available on the Internet, except to computers with congressional or military computer IP addresses. However, unlike the Army and Air Force audit agencies, the Navy at least lists its audit titles publicly online. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Defense Department Inspector General make many (and in the GAO's case, most) of their reports available online to the public.

This report shows the military often procures weapon systems that have serious known problems during OPEVAL and that, at least within the Navy during the last five years, these problems usually aren't fixed. Some possible solutions are that the military should work harder at fixing problems after systems are fielded or fix problems during OPEVAL. The report notes that after weapons are fielded "control is lost," meaning that no one is monitoring these systems to ensure that the deficiencies are corrected.

One direct positive accomplishment of the audit was that Naval Sea Systems Command and Military Sealift Command corrected a major deficiency on five Strategic Sealift ships. According to the audit, "Engine and ship vibration caused the [turbocharger exhaust] bellows to crack, allowing the engine room to fill up with exhaust and putting crewmembers at risk." (page 14) The Naval Audit Service believes the "audit gave greater visibility to this deficiency." (page 2)

Here are some highlights from “Resolution of Critical Operational Issues Identified During Operational Evaluations” (N2005-0040):

  • “72 percent of all major deficiencies (78 of 109) identified during OPEVALs during the past 5 years were uncorrected when the associated systems were fielded.” (Page 5)
  • “54 percent of all major deficiencies continued to be uncorrected, 1 to 5 years after OPEVAL [Operational Testing and Evaluation].” (Page 2)
  • “[A]t least 21 percent of all major deficiencies would likely remain uncorrected because there was no plan of action to correct them, a lack of funding, or program management considered the deficiency too costly to correct. We consider these systems to be at risk of not meeting user requirements for operational suitability and effectiveness.” One of these weapons is the F/A-18 E/F combat aircraft, which has five deficiencies affecting the areas of performance, safety and operations that are unlikely to be corrected.. These deficiencies were noted in the F/A-18 E/F OPEVAL report dated 14 February 2000. (Page 2 and 9)
  • “In our judgment, the longer the major deficiencies remain fielded without correction, the more unlikely they are to be corrected. The original desired operational effectiveness, performance, and/or improved capability of systems may be reduced, and the overall cost to meet fleet readiness requirements may increase.” (Page 2)
  • “We found no clearly defined process in current acquisition policy and guidance to resolve and correct deficiencies...Ultimately, the Navy is not maximizing its return on investment in existing controls, to include operational testing and evaluation.” (Page 2)