Index

Defense Acquisitions: Army Purchased Truck Trailers That Cannot be Used
as Planned (Letter Report, 10/27/1999, GAO/NSIAD-00-15).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the
Army's purchase of the High Mobility Trailers, focusing on the: (1)
factors leading to the substantial increase in the contract unit price
of the trailers; (2) reasons the trailers cannot be used as planned and
the cost to the Army for required modifications; and (3) Army's
acquisition strategy and plans to procure additional trailers.

GAO noted that: (1) the Army has paid a much higher unit price for the
High Mobility Trailers than it originally expected primarily because it
awarded a $50.6 million, 5-year, multiyear contract to produce 7,563
trailers and then decided not to fund the fourth year of the contract;
(2) a program official said that the Army did not fund the fourth year
of the contract because of other higher funding priorities; (3) rather
than cancel the final 2 years of the contract, the Army and the
contractor agreed to a restructured contract; (4) the restructured
contract reduced annual production quantities; extended production a
year; and increased the price of each cargo trailer by 57 percent, from
$6,710 to $10,521, and each chassis trailer by 50 percent, from $3,560
to $5,334; (5) the increase in the unit price was attributed primarily
to spreading overhead costs over fewer units, allowing for higher labor
and material costs, and an increase in the contractor's profit
percentage; (6) most of the 6,700 High Mobility Trailers the Army has
purchased are: (a) not usable because of a safety problem; and (b) not
suitable because they damage the light and heavy trucks towing them; (7)
in addition to damaging the truck, the Army found that the trailer
drawbar could break, causing a safety problem; (8) if it breaks, the
trailer can disconnect from the truck or overturn; (9) to make the
trailers usable and suitable, the Army needs to make two modifications
to the trailers and one modification to each type of truck; (10) it has
identified a trailer modification that will cost an additional $640 for
each trailer and a truck modification that will cost an additional $250
for each heavy truck; (11) the Army's acquisition strategy
underestimated the risks; (12) the Army, based on its belief that only
minor modifications to an existing trailer design were required, entered
into a multiyear production contract without demonstrating that the
design would meet its requirements; (13) further, the contract required
the contractor to design, produce, and deliver trailers within 150 days
of contract award; (14) the Army subsequently found that the contractor
could not meet the contract's original delivery schedule, the trailers
initially did not pass testing, and initial trailer design required
significant modifications; (15) it plans to award a competitively bid,
5-year requirements contract sometime after fiscal year 2002 begins to
acquire 18,412 more High Mobility Trailers; and (16) the Army is in the
early stages of planning for this contract and has not worked out many
of the details.

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

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-00-15
     TITLE:  Defense Acquisitions: Army Purchased Truck Trailers That
	     Cannot be Used as Planned
      DATE:  10/27/1999
   SUBJECT:  Cost overruns
	     Schedule slippages
	     Procurement planning
	     Contract modifications
	     Cost analysis
	     Army procurement
	     Prices and pricing
	     Military land vehicles
IDENTIFIER:  High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle
	     Army High Mobility Trailer Program

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Report to the Honorable 
Tom Harkin, U.S. Senate

October 1999

DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS

Army Purchased Truck Trailers That Cannot Be Used as
Planned
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GAO/NSIAD-00-15

                                                      National Security and
                                             International Affairs Division

B-283452

October 27, 1999

The Honorable Tom Harkin
United States Senate

Dear Senator Harkin:

The Army has purchased 6,700 ****ITCCentury Book:xbd****-ton High Mobility
Trailers as companion trailers for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled
Vehicles, 1****ITCCentury Book:xb9****-ton trucks. The Army is buying two
types of trailers. A cargo trailer that will be used to carry loose cargo,
such as ammunition boxes, and a chassis trailer, which will be used to
permanently attach towed equipment, such as power generators. The
trailers' unit price has significantly increased and generally they cannot
be used as planned until modifications are made to the trailers and the
trucks that tow them. The Army plans to acquire 
18,412 more of the trailers. In response to your request, we (1)
determined factors leading to the substantial increase in the contract
unit price of the trailers, (2) identified reasons the trailers cannot be
used as planned and the cost to the Army for required modifications, and
(3) assessed the Army's acquisition strategy and plans to procure
additional trailers.

Results in Brief

The Army has paid a much higher unit price for the High Mobility Trailers
than it originally expected primarily because it awarded a $50.6-million, 
5-year, multiyear contract to produce 7,563 trailers and then decided not
to fund the fourth year of the contract. A program official said that the
Army did not fund the fourth year of the contract because of other higher
funding priorities. The multiyear contract required the cancellation of
the fourth and fifth years of production if the fourth year was not
funded. Rather than cancel the final 2 years of the contract, the Army and
the contractor agreed to a restructured contract. At the time the contract
was restructured, the contractor was more than a year behind the original
delivery schedule and had incurred additional costs in modifying the
trailer to meet requirements. The restructured contract reduced annual
production quantities; extended production a year; and increased the price
of each cargo trailer by 
57 percent, from $6,710 to $10,521, and each chassis trailer by 50
percent, from $3,560 to $5,334. The increase in unit price was attributed
primarily to spreading overhead costs over fewer units, allowing for
higher labor and material costs, and an increase in the contractor's
profit percentage. 

Most of the 6,700 High Mobility Trailers the Army has purchased are (1)
not usable because of a safety problem and (2) not suitable because they
damage the light and heavy trucks towing them./Footnote1/ In addition to
damaging the truck, the Army found that the trailer drawbar could break,
causing a safety problem. If it breaks, the trailer can disconnect from
the truck or overturn. The Army has placed all 5,696 cargo trailers and
854 of the chassis trailers into storage until they are modified to
correct the problem. The modifications to correct the trailer drawbar
problem caused additional problems with the trailer brakes and additional
damage to the trucks. Since it had accepted the trailer design, the Army
determined that it would pay for the required modifications. To make the
trailers usable and suitable, the Army needs to make three modifications
to the trailers and one modification to each type of truck. It has
identified two of the trailer modifications that will cost an additional
$640 for each trailer and a truck modification that will cost an
additional $250 for each heavy truck. However, it has not yet identified
the other trailer modification or the light truck modification.

The Army's acquisition strategy underestimated the risks. The Army, based
on its belief that only minor modifications to an existing trailer design
were required, entered into a multiyear production contract without
demonstrating that the design would meet its requirements. Further, the
contract required the contractor to design, produce, and deliver trailers
within 150 days of contract award. The Army subsequently found that the
contractor could not meet the contract's original delivery schedule, the
trailers initially did not pass testing, and the initial trailer design
required significant modifications. It plans to award a competitively bid,
5-year requirements contract sometime after fiscal year 2002 begins to
acquire more High Mobility Trailers. The Army is in the early stages of
planning for this contract and has not worked out many of the details. It
is revising the trailer specifications and as a result, the new contract
may include a new trailer design. 

This report contains a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense to
require the Army, before beginning production of the follow-on trailers,
to demonstrate the design will meet requirements and will not damage the
trucks. In its comments to the report, the Department of Defense concurred
with this recommendation. 

Background

In 1987, the Army decided it needed a new companion trailer for the High
Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle to provide improved off-road
mobility and carry heavier loads compared to the then current M101 series
****ITCCentury Book:xbd****-ton military trailer. The Army found that the
M101 series trailer lacked stability because its wheels did not have the
same tire track width as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle
and its suspension was not adequate. As a result, the trailer had a
tendency to overturn, even at low speeds, in soft soil and rough terrain.

The new trailer (see fig. 1) was designed to be compatible with both the
light and heavy High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles. Differences
in the two trucks required that two cargo versions of the trailers be
produced. The light cargo trailer was to carry at least 1,500 pounds and
the heavy cargo trailer was to carry at least 2,500 pounds. The new
trailers also included a chassis version that was to carry at least 2,700
pounds. The Army required the trailers to have the same track width and
tires as the truck and inertia brakes, called surge brakes, which are
actuated by forces between the tow hitch of the truck and the drawbar of
the trailer. The trailer was to be capable of being towed at speeds up to
20 miles per hour cross-country, 35 miles per hour on secondary roads, and
55 miles per hour on primary roads.

Figure****Helvetica:x11****1:    The High Mobility Cargo
                                 Trailer
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Source: Raytheon E-Systems Richardson.

On October 27, 1993, the Army awarded a $50.6-million, multiyear, firm
fixed-price, 5-year production contract, with options, to Electrospace
Systems, Inc., Richardson, Texas, to produce 7,563 trailers for active,
guard, and reserve Army units. Electrospace subcontracted with Silver
Eagle Manufacturing Co., Portland, Oregon, for the actual production of
the trailers. Silver Eagle based its new trailer design on a High Mobility
Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle trailer it had designed earlier for an Army
demonstration program. Silver Eagle had previously sold 15 of these
trailers for demonstration programs, both inside and outside the Army.
Electrospace and Silver Eagle had to modify the earlier military trailer
to meet the new requirements. Electrospace became part of Raytheon 
E-Systems, Inc., in June 1996.

The contract was restructured, effective on December 27, 1996. The Army
fielded the first 740 trailers to Army Reserve and National Guard units.
The contractor produced 6,700 trailers at a total price of $57 million
under the restructured contract. The contractor had delivered all the
trailers required by the restructured contract by the end of July 1999.

Contract Unit Price of Trailers Increased Significantly

The Army has paid a much higher unit price for the High Mobility Trailers
than it originally expected, primarily because it awarded a multiyear, 5-
year production contract that required it to fully fund each year by a
specific date or cancel the remaining production years and then decided
not to fund the fourth year of the contract. Rather than cancel the
remaining production years, the Army and the contractor decided to
restructure the contract. The restructuring reduced the number of trailers
to be produced and allowed the contractor to reprice the trailers based on
then-current costs. This resulted in a 57-percent increase, from $6,710 to
$10,521, in the unit price of the cargo trailers and a 50-percent
increase, from $3,560 to $5,334, in the unit price of the chassis trailers. 

In developing its fiscal year 1997 budget request, the Army decided not to
fund the High Mobility Trailer program. A program official said that the
Army cited higher funding priorities as the reason for not funding the
trailer program. The funding was required for the fourth year of the 5-
year production contract. Under the terms of the multiyear contract, if
the required funds were not available by the required date, the Army would
have to cancel the remainder of the contract and pay the contractor for
reasonable and necessary costs incurred and a reasonable profit on those
costs. The contract limited these costs to no more than $1.1 million for
cancellation of the contract's fourth and fifth production years.

Rather than cancel the contract, the Army and the contractor negotiated a
restructured contract, effective December 27, 1996. According to program
office officials, they believed the benefits of continuing the contract
outweighed the costs of cancellation. On December 23, 1996, 4 days before
the restructure, the Army informed the contractor that the trailers had
successfully completed the testing to show that they met contract
performance requirements. At that time, the contractor was more than a
year behind the original delivery schedule and had incurred additional
costs in modifying the trailers to meet requirements. However, the Army
did not allow the contractor to recoup the additional costs on the
restructured contract.

Under the restructured contract, the original fourth and fifth years of
production were terminated and a lower total production quantity was
established and spread over 3 years of production. The original contract
called for 4,534 trailers to be produced in the last 2 program years. The
restructured contract reduced this number to 2,300 trailers to be produced
over 3 years. The restructured contract allowed the contractor to increase
its unit prices to $10,521 per trailer for the two cargo trailer versions,
an increase of 57 percent over their original unit price of $6,710, and to 
$5,334 per trailer for the chassis trailer version, an increase of 50
percent over its original unit price of $3,560. The negotiations leading
to the restructured contract attributed the increased unit price to
spreading overhead costs over fewer units, allowing for higher labor and
material costs, and increasing the contractor's profit percentage.

Trailers Are Not Usable With Trucks Until the Army Modifies Them

Most of the 6,700 High Mobility Trailers the Army has purchased are (1)
not usable because of a safety problem and (2) not suitable because they
damage the trucks towing them. The Army found that the trailer drawbar
could break causing a safety problem. If it breaks, the trailer could
disconnect from the truck or overturn. The Army has stored all 5,696 cargo
trailers and 854 of the chassis trailers until they are modified to
correct the problem. The modification to correct the trailer drawbar
problem caused additional problems with the trailer brakes and additional
damage to the trucks. Because it had previously accepted the trailer
design, the Army determined that it would pay for the required
modifications identified since the acceptance. The Army will pay an
additional $640 per trailer for required trailer modifications but has not
yet determined the modification needed to correct the trailer's brakes.
The Army also will pay $250 per heavy truck for a modification, but it has
not determined the required modification for the light truck. Because the
Army has not determined all the required modification, the total program
or unit cost to the Army for the trailers is unknown.

In July 1995, the Army Operational Evaluation Command performed an
operational assessment of the trailers using data generated during
production testing. It found that (1) the trailer demonstrated the
potential for causing catastrophic failure in the truck due to cracking of
the truck's rear cross member and (2) the heavy truck jack was not
compatible with the trailer, which did not have a requirement to have a
tire jack of its own. The Command assessed the trailers as effective but
not suitable for Army use primarily because of the damage to the truck. It
recommended that the cause of the truck damage be investigated and
corrected before approving the trailers for full fielding. 

Although the trailers damaged the trucks towing them during testing, the
Army concluded that the design met contract performance requirements. The
program office did not believe the truck damage was a major problem
because only three of the trucks were damaged during testing. Rather than
correcting the truck damage problem before fielding, the Army, on December
23, 1996, informed the contractor that the trailers had successfully
completed testing and that it would accept all trailers built to their
designs. The Army fielded the first 740 trailers to Army Reserve and
National Guard units without correcting the problem.

To prevent the trailer from damaging the trucks, the Army developed bumper
and cross member modifications. In testing the truck modifications, on
November 14, 1997, the trailer drawbar broke. In analyzing the drawbar
design, the Army determined that the drawbar had no margin of safety when
the trailer was fully loaded and the drawbar was bending when going over a
bump or rough spot. Since it had accepted the trailer design, the Army
determined that it would pay for the required modifications.

On March 3, 1998, the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command
issued a safety-of-use message requiring the Army to stop using all High
Mobility Trailers, except about 150 chassis versions with generators
mounted on them. These trailers were excluded because their operational
weight was lower than that of the cargo trailers and would not break a
drawbar. Since the message, the Army has been accepting trailers from the
contractor and immediately placing them in storage at various locations
around the country until the necessary modifications can be made. It has
5,696 cargo trailers and 854 chassis trailers in storage.

To correct the drawbar problem, the Army developed a new drawbar with a
steel center bar to replace the trailer's original all aluminum drawbar.
It began testing trailers modified with the new drawbar on May 8, 1998.
The modified drawbar was stiffer that the original drawbar, and the Army
found that it accelerated the wear on the surge brake actuator
housing/Footnote2/ and caused more damage to the trucks than the original
drawbar.

On July 8, 1999, the Army completed its latest test of truck and trailer
modifications. Some of the modifications were successful and some were
not. The trailer drawbar modification was successful because it did not
fail during testing, and the heavy truck bumper modification kept the
trailers from damaging the heavy trucks. However, the trailer brake
actuator and light truck modifications were not successful since the surge
brake actuator housing cracked and parts wore out and the trailer
continued to damage the light trucks.

A program official said that the heavy truck trailer will need a heavier
surge brake actuator and the light truck will need additional
reinforcement to its rear cross member. As of September 27, 1999, the Army
had not decided on the surge brake actuator housing modification or the
light truck modification needed to correct the problems. The program
official also said that most of the stored trucks would not be retrofitted
with the drawbar and surge brake modifications until the surge brake
problem is corrected and demonstrated either through modeling and
simulation or actual testing. However, he added that because units had to
turn in their older trailers before being issued the new trailer, the
program office is seeking approval to immediately retrofit the modified
drawbar onto the 
740 fielded trailers. The retrofit will allow the units to use the trailer
up to 
10 miles-per-hour cross-country as long as they inspect the trailers and
trucks more often. 

The final unit cost of the trailers cannot be determined until the Army
identifies all of the trailer and truck modifications needed to make the
trailers suitable for Army use. Since the Army will pay for these
modifications, these costs should be added to the contract unit price of
the trailers to obtain the total unit cost for the trailers. The Army has
determined that each trailer needs (1) a jack adapter costing $60 that
will allow the heavy truck tire jack to be used on the trailers and (2)
the drawbar modification estimated to cost $580. These will increase the
unit cost to $7,350 for cargo trailers and $4,200 for chassis trailers
bought before the contract was restructured and $11,161 for cargo trailers
and $5,974 for chassis trailers bought after the contract was
restructured. The modification cost to solve the surge brake actuator
problem should be added to these costs once the Army identifies the
required modification.

In addition to determining the cost of the trailer modifications, the cost
to modify the trucks needs to be determined to arrive at the Army's total
cost for the trailer program. The Army estimates the modification on the
heavy trucks will cost $250 per truck. However, the Army has not
determined the modification for the light trucks. Also, the Army has not
determined the number of trucks that need to tow the trailer and therefore
would need the modifications. The Army was surveying the units that have
the trucks to determine their requirements for towing the trailer.

Army's Acquisition Strategy Underestimated Risks

The Army, based on its belief that only minor modifications to an existing
trailer design were required, entered into a multiyear, 5-year production
contract without demonstrating that the design would meet its
requirements. The Army subsequently found that the contractor could not
meet the original delivery schedule, the trailers initially did not pass
testing, and the initial trailer design required significant
modifications. The Army is in the early stages of planning for the follow-
on purchase of trailers. The follow-on contract may include a new trailer
design. 

The Army awarded the multiyear production contract because it believed
that its High Mobility Trailer requirements could be met by making minor
modifications to an existing Silver Eagle trailer. Its market
investigation prior to contract award determined that both Silver Eagle
and another manufacturer had existing trailers that met 92 percent of the
Army requirements. However, this determination was based upon the
manufacturers' statements, not on Army tests. The trailer contract,
awarded to Electrospace, required the contractor to design, produce, and
deliver the first 12 trailers for testing within 150 days of contract
award. The contractor was from 4 to 6 months late in delivering the first
12 trailers, which were initially unable to meet the contract requirements
because of excessive wear to the axle and surge brake actuator. The
contractor replaced the original axle with a stronger one and modified the
trailer's surge brake actuator. The Army tested the modified trailers and,
while it determined that the axle problem had been fixed, it raised
continuing concerns about wear to the surge brake actuator. However,
rather than requiring further modifications to the brake, the Army
accepted a surge brake system warranty from the contractor. On December
23, 1996, the Army informed the contractor that the trailers had
successfully completed the testing to show that they met contract
performance requirements and that it would accept all trailers built to
the same configuration as those that had successfully completed testing.

The Army plans to acquire 18,412 more High Mobility Trailers and to
continue the trailer program with the award of a 5-year requirements
contract. Originally, the Army planned to award this contract in March
2000; however, problems with the trailers and an Army decision not to fund
the program in fiscal year 2001 will delay the contract award until
October 2001 at the earliest.

The Army is in the early stages of planning for this contract and has not
worked out many of the details of the follow-on production, but it is
revising the trailer specifications. For example, the program office has
considered allowing the next contractor to produce the new trailers with a
brake system other than an inertia brake system. The current surge brake
system resulted from the requirement that the original trailers have an
inertia brake system. As a result of revising the trailer specifications,
the new contract may include a new trailer design.

Conclusions

The Army's acquisition strategy for High Mobility Trailers underestimated
the risks of entering into a multiyear, 5-year production contract before
demonstrating that the trailer's design met its requirements. As a result,
the trailers cannot be used as planned, and the Army and the contractor
have incurred substantial additional costs to fix problems. The Army's
plan for the follow-on purchase of trailers may include a new design, but
it is not clear yet if the Army plans to demonstrate, prior to production,
that the new design will meet its requirements. 

Recommendation

To ensure that the Army does not again acquire trailers that need
substantial modifications before being fielded, we recommend that the
Secretary of Defense require the Army, before proceeding with follow-on
production of the trailer, to demonstrate the design will meet
requirements and will not damage the trucks.

Agency Comments

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Defense
concurred with the recommendation, stating that before proceeding with the
follow-on procurement of the trailer, the Army will perform testing to
demonstrate that the trailer design meets operational requirements and
will not damage the truck towing it. The Department added that the Army
has reviewed the original trailer strategy and its execution to develop an
improved strategy for the follow-on trailer procurement. In addition, the
Department stated that the Army is refining the trailer performance
specification and developing a more rigorous testing plan that will
evaluate trailer and truck performance as an integrated system.

Scope and Methodology

To identify the factors leading to a substantial increase in the trailer's
contract unit price and the reasons the Army cannot use most of the
trailers until modifications are made, we reviewed the original market
investigation report, the Army's acquisition strategy, contract files,
program schedules, test plan and reports, and other program documents. We
discussed implications of the documentation with program and test
officials. 

To assess the Army's acquisition strategy and plans to procure additional
trailers, we reviewed the High Mobility Trailer acquisition strategy and
plan, Army budget documents, and other program documents. We discussed the
evolving plans with Army program officials involved in planning the follow-
on trailer contract.

In performing our work, we obtained documents and interviewed officials
from the Offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Army, Washington,
D.C.; the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, Warren,
Michigan; and the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground,
Maryland.

We conducted our review between May and September 1999 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further
distribution of this report until 30 days from its issue date. At that
time, we will send copies of the report to Senator John W. Warner,
Chairman, and Senator Carl Levin, Ranking Minority Member, Senate
Committee on Armed Services; Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman, and Senator
Daniel K. Inouye, Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Defense, Senate
Committee on Appropriations; Representative Floyd D. Spence, Chairman, and
Representative Ike Skelton, Ranking Minority Member, House Committee on
Armed Services; and Representative Jerry Lewis, Chairman, and
Representative John P. Murtha, Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on
Defense, House Committee on Appropriations. We will also send copies of
this report to the Honorable William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense; the
Honorable Louis Caldera, Secretary of the Army; and the Honorable Jacob J.
Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget. We will make copies
available to others on request.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report please call
Robert J. Stolba or me on (202) 512-4841. Major contributors to this
report are Lawrence Gaston, Jr.; Stephanie J. May; and William T. Woods.

Sincerely yours,
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James F. Wiggins
Associate Director
Defense Acquisitions Issues

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/Footnote1/-^The light trucks are the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled
  Vehicles that were produced with a frame cross member instead of a rear
  bumper and can tow up to 3,400 pounds, including the trailer and its
  load. The heavy trucks are the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled
  Vehicles that were produced with a rear bumper and can tow up to 4,200
  pounds, including the trailer and its load.
/Footnote2/-^The surge brake actuator housing is located on the trailer
  drawbar and contains the surge brake actuator, which is basically a
  piston that the truck slowing down or accelerating moves to compress or
  expand hydraulic fluid that, in turn, cause the trailer brakes to engage
  or disengage.

COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
=======================================

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(707416)

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