DOD Urged to Tighten Corrosion Oversight


The Department of Defense needs to keep a firmer rein on the scores of equipment-related corrosion projects it oversees, including nailing down data on project outcomes, a new federal audit recommends.

DOD Should Enhance Oversight of Equipment-Related Corrosion Projects is the General Accountability Office's second audit in three months to recommend improvement in the military's corrosion prevention and control programs.

In June, GAO auditors took individual service branches to task in Additional Information Needed to Improve Military Departments' Strategies for Corrosion Prevention and Control.

This time, the auditors examined projects involving equipment-related corrosion, which can hamper military readiness by taking needed systems out of action.

DOD disputed the findings of the June audit. It gave a mixed response to the new report.

$19B Annual Problem

DOD estimates the cost of preventing and mitigating military corrosion of equipment, weapons, facilities and infrastructure at $20.8 billion annually, GAO noted. Corrosion of equipment and weapons accounts for about $19 billion of that total, GAO said.

The agency counts all forms of corrosion, including rusting, pitting and galvanic reactions; calcium or other mineral buildup; degradation due to ultraviolet light exposure; and mold, mildew or other organic decay.

From fiscal year 2005 to FY2010, DOD's Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight (Corrosion Office) invested more than $63 million in 88 projects to demonstrate new technology or methods addressing equipment-related corrosion, the audit says.

Navy corrosion

Corrosion perforates a light fixture on a Navy ship. Federal auditors want better accounting of what experimental technologies are best at fighting corrosion.

Yet, as of May 2013, project managers had submitted final reports for just 55 of the 88 projects (about 63 percent) and follow-on reports (required two years after a project's completion) for 27 of the 41 projects (about 66 percent) funded from 2005 through 2007, auditors said.

Incomplete, Inconsistent

"DOD requires the military departments to collect and report to the Corrosion Office key information from equipment-related corrosion projects about new technologies or methods; however, DOD does not have complete information about the benefits of all projects," GAO reported.

"GAO found that the military departments inconsistently reported measures of achievement other than the Return on Investment (ROI), such as when outcomes prompted changes to military equipment specifications.

"Further, the military departments did not always collect required information needed to recompute the estimated ROI and were unable to determine whether projects had achieved their estimated ROI."

GAO Table 2 GAO chart 1

Service branches need to improve compliance with required reporting, federal auditors say.

GAO credited DOD with improving its oversight of the projects in several ways, including revising the DOD Corrosion Prevention and Mitigation Strategic Plan to provide additional guidance on reporting requirements. The audit also noted that the Corrosion Office had collected a majority of the required reports and "is taking steps to obtain outstanding reports."

"However," auditors added, "DOD does not have a comprehensive overview of the status of all equipment-related corrosion projects."


The GAO said its examination had included review of documents, relevant laws and DOD policy, and extensive interviews with project managers, corrosion executives for the service branches, and Corrosion Office offiicials. The audit ran from July 2012 to this month.

Navy corrosion

Corrosion maintenance and prevention costs the Department of Defense $20.8 billion annually. Most of that investment is related to equipment corrosion.

The auditors concluded:

  • The Corrosion Office "does not consolidate information to monitor the status of all these projects, such as if a project has not transitioned to service use or has been discontinued";
  • Project managers do not offer sufficient detail overall about the benefits and outcomes of projects;
  • Project managers vary in how they report the ROI on discontinued projects; and
  • The Corrosion Office "has no centralized and secure database or other source to share lessons from all project reports, including those with sensitive information."

Assumptions, Outcomes and Loose Ends

The audit noted a variety of projects reflecting a range of assumptions and unsubstantiated ROIs. These included:

  • An Army trial of commercially available dehumification technology to protect radar systems on Patriot missiles.  The 2008 project projected an ROI of $46.75 for every dollar invested and said project staff would collect ROI data by tracking corrosion rates and conducting comparison inspections. Little of this work was ultimately done, however, so the actual ROI could not be recomputed later, GAO said.
  • A Marine test of supplemental coatings to protect weapon systems against corrosion. The 2010 project projected an ROI of $189.74 for every dollar invested, based on comparison data that would be collected annually. However, project personnel told auditors that they will only update the original assumptions; the ROI will not be recomputed with the data promised.
  • An Air Force and Navy joint project tested the use of aerosol paint cans for aircraft coatings. The 2005 project predicted an ROI of $61.32 for each dollar invested. The ROI was based on plans to collect a series of data involving paint cost, manpower savings, and purchasing strategies. However, project managers told GAO that they have not collected the information on their initial assumptions.

DOD personnel also told auditors that it was difficult to measure the success of a new technology because maintenance and repair personnel do not always note in records the reason for repair or replacement.

For example, the audit said, when electronic circuit cards failed and were removed from aircraft, Air Force repair personnel installed new cards "but did not take the time to figure out why they failed. ..."

Recommendations and Response

GAO recommended that the Corrosion Office:

  • Revise its guidance to require more detailed measurements of achievement on its projects;
  • Develop a mechanism to assist in monitoring and consolidating the status information for each project;
  • Revise guidance on reporting the ROI on discontinued projects; and
  • Establish a time frame for developing a new database for corrosion projects, including lessons learned.

DOD concurred with the second recommendation, saying it would develop a tool to enhance project tracking. It also accepted the fourth recommendation, saying the initial phase of the new database would be completed by Dec. 31, 2013.

DOD said it would revise guidance on calculating ROI for discontinued projects.

However, the agencies parted ways on the first recommendation for more detailed reporting. DOD said the corrosion strategic plan "currently provides sufficient guidance in this regard. ..."


Tagged categories: Corrosion protection; Department of Defense (DOD); Government; Maintenance programs; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Protective Coatings; U.S. Army; U.S. Navy

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