The Government Accountability Office wants a better accounting from the Defense Department about its $9.1 million plan to tackle a $20.9 billion-a-year corrosion maintenance problem.
A new GAO report accuses DOD of submitting insufficient information about funding requirements, ROI analysis, and other details in its 2013 corrosion budget request to Congress. The report also provides a rare glimpse into some of the military’s current corrosion goals and problems.
Marine Corps Corrosion Prevention and Control Program
|During 2012, a DOD corrosion evaluation team is visiting sites similar to this corrosion rehabilitation facility at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.|
DOD has disputed all of GAO’s conclusions, even citing GAO’s own audits in recent years about the value, performance, and management of DOD’s Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight.
Lack of Information Cited
GAO’s 45-page report, released Sept. 11, analyzes the 2013 DOD corrosion budget submission and report that went to Congress on May 21. DOD submitted a budget request of $9.1 million, the same as the current year.
The GAO report, U.S. DoD’s Annual Corrosion Budget Report Does Not Include Some Required Information, says that the budget request falls short in three of six mandated areas. Specifically, GAO asked DOD to:
• Provide a more detailed explanation of the development of DOD’s funding requirements;
• Include “the funds requested in DOD’s budget compared to the funding requirements for the fiscal year covered by the report and the preceding fiscal year”; and
• Provide an explanation of DOD’s Return on Investment methodology and analysis, “including both projected and, to the extent available, validated ROIs.”
DOD contends that its corrosion initiatives have an average ROI of more than 14 to 1, but GAO said DOD’s budget report “does not support the 14 to 1 average ROI for projects cited....”
Calculating Cost Savings
GAO also says that it was unable to calculate DOD’s “cost avoidance” figure—the potential cost savings the government could realize by fully funding the agency’s needs—because DOD says it did not have any unfunded requirements in the current year.
Indeed, for fiscal 2012, the office actually received funding above its budget request.
However, GAO reported: “Without all of the required information on DOD’s corrosion prevention and control activities and projects, DOD senior leaders and Congress may face challenges in assessing the levels of funding needed to effectively prevent and control corrosion.”
DOD disputed all of GAO’s recommendations—in part, using GAO’s own record.
To GAO’s request for more information about how DOD developed its funding requirements, DOD said it had provided sufficient information and referred GAO to its own 2010 report, DOD Has a Rigorous Process to Select Corrosion Prevention Projects, but Would Benefit from Clearer Guidance and Validation of Returns on Investment.
To GAO’s second request, DOD noted that it was not asking for any additional funds over last year. GAO responded, however, that DOD had not submitted sufficient information about the funding requirements last year, either. Instead, DOD reported its actual funding compared to the funding request.
Finally, regarding its ROI methodology, DOD referred GAO to the methodology included in the DOD Corrosion Prevention and Mitigation Strategic Plan, which military departments use to estimate the projected ROI of each project. While endorsing that methodology, GAO said it also wanted DOD’s additional analysis for corrosion projects.
What’s at Stake
The GAO report also indicated the scope of DOD’s corrosion challenges, which affect not only taxpayer dollars but military readiness and safety. Corrosion takes critical military systems out of action, and degradation of equipment has caused fatal accidents, GAO has reported.
US Air Force
|A new DOD design standard is helping to prevent corrosion in aboveground storage tanks like these at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham, near Honolulu.|
Corrosion-related maintenance currently costs DOD about $20.9 billion a year.
That is part of a $52 billion annual tab for sustaining about 300 ships; 15,000 aircraft; 900 strategic missiles; and 350,000 ground combat and tactical vehicles.
In 2002, Congress authorized creation of the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight (CPO) to tackle the prevention and mitigation of corrosion of military equipment and infrastructure. Since 2008, DOD has been required to submit an annual report on the CPO budget, and GAO has been required to review the report.
The new GAO report also offers some interesting insights into specific current military corrosion issues and goals. For example, it notes:
• The Army is seeking Army-wide alternatives to anti-corrosion coatings that use hexavalent chromium, cadmium and other carcinogens.
• The Army is tackling a unique corrosion issue on UH-60 Black hawk helicopters by rebalancing the tail rotors.
• The Army, Navy and Air Force all have expressed concern about the duties of the corrosion control and prevention executive assigned to each branch.
• The Air Force 2011 report includes no recommendations on corrosion prevention and control, “because of internal reorganization that resulted in the loss of Air Force corrosion expertise.”
An Air Force official told GAO “that at the time of the report, the Air Force did not have a good grasp on its overall corrosion issues, and therefore it was not in a position to make recommendations.”
In June, after that report was issued, the Air Force did develop a long-term corrosion plan, the GAO said.