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B-2 Bomber: Cost and Operational Issues (Letter Report, 08/14/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-181).

Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the B-2 bomber,
focusing on the current status of cost and operational issues.

GAO noted that: (1) the total cost of the B-2 appears to have
stabilized; (2) the Air Force has reported that the total estimated B-2
acquisition costs (development, procurement, and military construction)
decreased from $44,946 million in early 1995 to $44,754 million in early
1997; (3) the estimated cost declined even though Congress added new
requirements to the B-2 program and provided additional funds of $734
million in fiscal years 1995, 1996, and 1997; (4) Air Force officials
advised GAO that the $44,754 million in cost reported to Congress was
understated by $89 million; (5) they said that the impact of the
understatement would be that two of the test aircraft would not be fully
upgraded to block 30, making them less than fully capable; (6) through
fiscal year 1997, Congress appropriated funds for about 96 percent of
the estimated total cost of $44,754 million; (7) although the cost
estimate has not changed substantially since 1995, costs could increase
if: (a) the flight test program is extended beyond March 1998; (b) more
performance deficiencies than predicted are identified during the
remaining portions of the acquisition program; and (c) unplanned
development and procurement activities become necessary to better
maintain the low-observable features of the B-2s; (8) the Air Force
declared on April 1, 1997, that the B-2s in an interim configuration had
achieved initial operational capability; (9) however, the Air Force
decided it was unrealistic to plan on deploying the interim aircraft to
forward operating locations because of difficulties being experienced in
maintaining low-observable characteristics at the B-2's main operating
base; and (10) the Air Force is reviewing specific B-2 deployment
requirements and working to resolve deployment-related problems by the
time the B-2s are scheduled to be fully capable in 1999.

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

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-97-181
     TITLE:  B-2 Bomber: Cost and Operational Issues
      DATE:  08/14/97
   SUBJECT:  Air Force procurement
             Bomber aircraft
             Testing
             Aircraft components
             Concurrency
             Defense capabilities
             Future budget projections
             Military cost control
             Advanced weapons systems
IDENTIFIER:  B-2 Aircraft
             Joint Standoff Weapon
             MK-84 Bomb
             Global Positioning System Aided Munition
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to Congressional Committees

August 1997

B-2 BOMBER - COST AND OPERATIONAL
ISSUES

GAO/NSIAD-97-181

B-2 Bomber

(707202)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  DOD - Department of Defense
  GAM - GPS aided munition
  GPS - Global Positioning System

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-275493

August 14, 1997

Congressional Committees

The conference report on the National Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 1994 requires us to report to the congressional defense
committees at regular intervals on the total acquisition costs of the
B-2 bomber through the completion of the production program.  The Air
Force is currently testing the B-2 and plans to complete the
production program, including planned block 30 modifications, by July
2000.  This, our fourth report,\1

provides the current status of cost and operational issues. 


--------------------
\1 The three prior reports are listed at the end of this report. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

B-2 operational requirements specify that the weapon system have
"low-observable" (stealth) characteristics and sufficient range and
payload capability to deliver precision-guided conventional or
nuclear weapons anywhere in the world with enhanced survivability. 
The B-2 combines conventional and state-of-the-art technology, such
as special shaping and radar-absorbing materials, to achieve
low-observability characteristics, high aerodynamic efficiency, and a
large payload capacity.  The blending of these technologies makes the
aircraft complex and costly to develop, produce, and in some respects
maintain. 

In the early 1990s, the number of B-2s to be acquired was reduced
from 132 to 20 operational aircraft.  The 20 aircraft include 15
production aircraft and 5 of 6 test aircraft that are to be modified
to a fully capable operational configuration.  In March 1996, the
President directed that the one remaining test aircraft be upgraded
to a fully capable operational configuration, bringing the total
operational B-2s to be acquired to 21. 

B-2 development started in 1981.  Production of long lead-time
aircraft components began in 1986 and flight testing was initiated in
1989.  The lengthy development and test program, which has been
implemented concurrently with the production program for about 11
years, required the Air Force to devise a mechanism for initially
accepting partially capable aircraft until their full capability
could be demonstrated in the test program.  Therefore, the Air Force
agreed to accept the 15 production aircraft in 3 configurations--10
in a training configuration, 3 in an interim configuration, and 2 in
the fully capable configuration known as block 30.  The block 30
configuration is planned to be the first fully capable configuration
that would meet all the essential employment capabilities\2 defined
by the Air Force. 

All aircraft not delivered in the block 30 configuration, including
test aircraft, have to be modified extensively to make them fully
capable.  Some of the aircraft in a training configuration have been
modified to an interim configuration.  The modification efforts began
in 1995 and are scheduled to be complete in July 2000.  The total
production period for the 21 aircraft, including modifications to
bring all B-2s into the fully capable configuration, is expected to
be about 14 years.  Flight testing was planned to take 4 years but
has taken about 8 years and is not yet completed.  The Air Force
extended the estimated completion of flight testing from July 1997 to
March 1998. 


--------------------
\2 Essential employment capabilities are the characteristics and
capabilities required by the Air Force to satisfy the full
operational spectrum of the B-2. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

The total cost of the B-2 appears to have stabilized.  The Air Force
has reported that the total estimated B-2 acquisition costs
(development, procurement, and military construction) decreased from
$44,946 million in early 1995 to $44,754 million in early 1997.  The
estimated cost declined even though Congress added new requirements
to the B-2 program and provided additional funds of $734 million in
fiscal years 1995, 1996, and 1997.  Air Force officials advised us
that the $44,754 million in cost reported to Congress was understated
by $89 million.  They said that the impact of the understatement
would be that two of the test aircraft would not be fully upgraded to
block 30 (making them less than fully capable).  Through fiscal year
1997, Congress appropriated funds for about 96 percent of the
estimated total cost of $44,754 million. 

Although the cost estimate has not changed substantially since 1995,
costs could increase if (1) the flight test program is extended
beyond March 1998, (2) more performance deficiencies than predicted
are identified during the remaining portions of the acquisition
program, and (3) unplanned development and procurement activities
become necessary to better maintain the low-observable features of
the B-2s. 

The Air Force declared on April 1, 1997, that the B-2s in an interim
configuration had achieved initial operational capability.  However,
the Air Force decided it was unrealistic to plan on deploying the
interim aircraft to forward operating locations because of
difficulties being experienced in maintaining low-observable
characteristics at the B-2's main operating base.  The Air Force is
reviewing specific B-2 deployment requirements and working to resolve
deployment-related problems by the time the B-2s are scheduled to be
fully capable in 1999. 


   TOTAL COST OF THE B-2 APPEARS
   TO HAVE STABILIZED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The Air Force's estimate of the total program cost for the B-2
program has changed less than 1 percent since 1994; however, the
estimate has been affected by changes made by both Congress and the
Air Force.  Table 1.1 shows the Air Force's 1994-96 cost estimates
for the development, procurement, and military construction of the
B-2 as reported in annual selected acquisition reports.  Through
fiscal year 1997, the Air Force was appropriated $43,178 million, or
96 percent, of the $44,754 million total program estimate.  This
leaves $1,576 million to be appropriated for fiscal years 1998-2004. 



                                    Table 1.1
                     
                         Estimated B-2 Acquisition Costs

                         (Then-year dollars in millions)

                                                                           Total
                                  Developmen    Military       Total     program
                      Operationa       t and  constructi  acquisitio        unit
Selected acquisition  l aircraft  procuremen          on   n program  acquisitio
report                  quantity  t estimate    estimate    estimate      n cost
--------------------  ----------  ----------  ----------  ----------  ----------
Dec. 1994                     20     $44,390        $556     $44,946      $2,247
Dec. 1995                     20     $44,760        $550     $45,310      $2,265
Dec. 1996                     21     $44,200        $554     $44,754      $2,131
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note:  Details of the fiscal year 1998 President's budget for the B-2
are included in appendix 1. 

Source:  B-2 Selected Acquisition Reports. 

The December 1996 estimate included costs to complete the program for
20 operational B-2s and other changes in the program.  In the last 3
fiscal years, Congress added $734 million to the B-2 program--$125
million to preserve the B-2 industrial base, $493 million to upgrade
the first test aircraft to operational status, and $116 million to
enhance the block 30 capabilities.  Enhanced capabilities include
making the B-2 capable of launching the Joint Stand Off Weapon and a
near-precision conventional penetrating bomb. 

The Air Force changes decreased various elements of the estimated
development and procurement costs.  Those decreases exceeded
congressional additions, resulting in the overall net reduction in
the total B-2 cost estimate.  For example, between fiscal year 1997
and 1998, estimates for B-2 spares, support, and nonrecurring air
vehicle cost decreased over $900 million.  Spare parts estimates were
reduced by $358 million because the Air Force now plans to fly fewer
and shorter aircraft sorties and because the methodology for
computing spare parts requirements changed.  Interim contractor
support estimates were also reduced by $142 million because parts
reliability, according to the Air Force, has been better than
anticipated.  Other support decreases totaling $170 million covered
peculiar support equipment, data, and training items.  In addition to
changes in the B-2 support estimate, the Air Force decreased its
estimate for nonrecurring air vehicle cost by $237 million. 

According to the Air Force, the estimate of development cost reported
in the December 1996 B-2 Selected Acquisition Report (included in
table 1.1) and the fiscal year 1998 President's budget (app.  I) is
understated by $89 million.  Air Force officials said that without
these funds, two of the test aircraft would not be upgraded to fully
capable aircraft, leaving only 19 fully capable B-2s. 


   B-2 COST INCREASES ARE POSSIBLE
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

B-2 estimated costs could increase if (1) the flight test program is
extended beyond March 1998, (2) more B-2 performance deficiencies are
identified during the time remaining in the acquisition program, and
(3) additional development and procurement activities are initiated
to better maintain the low-observable features of the B-2s. 


      EXTENDING THE FLIGHT TEST
      PROGRAM
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.1

The flight test program was not fully completed as scheduled on July
1, 1997, and the Air Force plans to extend flight testing with one
test aircraft through March 1998.  The Air Force is currently
defining detailed testing that will be required and has included $28
million in the fiscal year 1998 budget to cover the extended flight
test program.  Any additional extension of testing, however, could
increase the estimated B-2 cost.  Some of the areas to be further
tested are

  -- terrain-following/terrain-avoidance radar performance in the
     rain,

  -- mission effectiveness tests of the low-observable features,

  -- ground and flight tests of the environmental control system and
     auxiliary power units, and

  -- certain tests of the defensive management system. 

We plan to report on the results of B-2 testing after the Air Force
issues reports scheduled for late 1997 and early 1998. 


      OTHER DEFICIENCIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.2

Working on flight tests, aircraft production, and modifications
concurrently has created the need for further corrections of
deficiencies after fully capable aircraft are delivered and could
cause development costs to increase.  As of May 1997, the Air Force
officials had identified
13 corrections that cannot be incorporated into up to nine aircraft
during production or during the modification process.  They estimate
another
60 deficiencies could be identified that could impact the B-2s. 
These officials added that new corrections that cannot be
incorporated during the modification process would be incorporated by
retrofitting the aircraft at some future time.  The cost estimate for
production includes over $500 million in reserves (fiscal year 1993
and prior year funds) that are available for cost overruns and other
anticipated costs.  However, the development estimate includes only
$12 million in reserves to correct deficiencies in the test aircraft. 
Air Force officials said that if significantly more or costly
deficiencies are identified, development costs could increase. 


      DEPLOYMENT AND
      LOW-OBSERVABLE MAINTENANCE
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.3

The Air Force has concluded it could not effectively deploy B-2s to
forward operating locations without sheltering the aircraft to
preserve and maintain its low-observable features.  Accordingly, if
permanent or temporary shelters must be developed and built at
selected forward operation locations or additional support equipment
must be acquired to meet deployment and maintenance requirements,
additional costs will be incurred. 


   INITIAL OPERATING CAPABILITY
   ACHIEVED, BUT B-2 CANNOT BE
   DEPLOYED AS PLANNED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

According to the Air Force, the B-2 achieved initial operational
capability on April 1, 1997, with interim aircraft capable of flying
nuclear and limited conventional missions.  The interim B-2 is
supposed to be capable of participating in nuclear or conventional
warfare either from its main operating base at Whiteman Air Force
Base, Missouri, or from a forward operating location outside the
continental United States.  While the B-2's performance met
requirements for initial operations, the aircraft are unable to meet
intended deployment requirements because some low-observable features
require substantial maintenance and the aircraft are more sensitive
to climate and moisture than expected.  As a result, the Air Force
has eliminated the deployment requirement for interim aircraft and is
evaluating potential actions to allow deployment when fully capable
aircraft are delivered.  Full operational capability of the B-2 is
planned to be achieved in 1999. 


      INITIAL OPERATIONAL
      CAPABILITIES DEMONSTRATED
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

The Air Force demonstrated that interim B-2 aircraft can carry and
deliver unguided Mk 84 bombs or the precision-guided Global
Positioning System (GPS) aided munition (GAM) in the conventional
role or B-83/B-61 nuclear weapons in the nuclear role.  Reports of
flight tests and demonstrations indicated the GAM to be an effective
all-weather weapon in attacking fixed targets with near-precision
accuracy.  In one demonstration, 3 B-2s destroyed 16 targets using 16
GAMs dropped from over 40,000 feet.  In addition, the interim
aircraft have automatic terrain-following capability as low as 600
feet and some of the capabilities of the planned defensive management
system.  According to Air Force officials, the demonstrated
capabilities are more than adequate to perform the mission defined
for the interim configuration when operating from Whiteman Air Force
Base, the B-2's main operating base. 


      B-2S CANNOT BE DEPLOYED AS
      PLANNED
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2

The Air Force decided it was unrealistic to deploy the B-2 without
shelters, as planned, because some low-observable materials are not
as durable as expected and require lengthy maintenance, some in an
environmentally controlled shelter after each flight.  In addition,
B-2s must be kept in shelters because of their sensitivity to
moisture, water, and other severe climatic conditions.  Air Force
operational requirements for the B-2 intended for both the interim
and fully capable B-2s to be capable of deploying to forward
operating locations, without shelters, in all types of weather and
climates.  The Air Force is reviewing specific B-2 deployment
requirements and working to resolve deployment-related problems by
the time the B-2s are scheduled to be fully capable in 1999. 

The operational test report for the interim aircraft stated the
aircraft need frequent and lengthy maintenance and are sensitive to
extreme climates and moisture.  Tests showed that some low-observable
materials on the aircraft were damaged each time the aircraft flew
and that repair of those materials accounted for 39 percent of the 80
maintenance man-hours per flight hour experienced by the B-2 during
flight testing.  This is about three times greater than the next
largest contributor to maintenance man-hours, which was aircraft
structures.  The current goal for total maintenance man-hours per
flying hour is 60 hours, and the ultimate goal is 50 hours.  The
actual B-2 maintenance man-hours per flying hour at Whiteman Air
Force Base averaged 124 hours over 12 months ending in March 1997.  A
major factor in maintenance of low-observable materials is the long
time required to repair the damaged materials and aircraft surfaces. 
During operational testing of the interim configuration,
low-observable materials took from 30 to 80 hours to repair and cure,
and the processes require a shelter with a temperature and humidity
controlled environment for proper curing. 

Problems with low-observable materials have also affected the
percentage of time the B-2 was partially or fully capable of
completing a mission, which was significantly less when low
observability was considered.  When low observability was not
considered, the mission-capable rate was 66 percent for a 12-month
period ending March 1997.  However, when low-observability problems
were considered for the same period of time, the rate dropped
significantly to 26 percent. 

Testing indicated that B-2s are also sensitive to extreme climates,
water, and humidity-- exposure to water or moisture can damage some
of the low-observable enhancing surfaces on the aircraft.  Further,
exposure to water or moisture that causes water to accumulate in
aircraft compartments, ducts, and valves can cause systems to
malfunction.  If accumulated water freezes, it can take up to 24
hours to thaw and drain.  Air Force officials said it is unlikely
that the aircraft's sensitivity to moisture and climates or the need
for controlled environments to fix low-observability problems will
ever be fully resolved, even with improved materials and repair
processes.  Therefore, if B-2s are to be deployed, some form of
aircraft sheltering at a forward operating location will likely
become a requirement in the future. 

Air Force test officials stated that maintenance of low-observable
features is an issue that requires significant further study and that
the percentage of maintenance hours required to repair low-observable
materials would increase even more before there are reductions.  They
said technological improvements in materials and repair processes
will be required.  Air Combat Command considers low-observable
maintainability to be its number one supportability issue, and the
Air Force has efforts underway to develop new materials, procedures,
and support equipment.  It is currently changing some of the
materials on the aircraft to improve durability and reduce repair
times.  It has also established procedures to monitor conditions of
low-observable materials on the operational aircraft and developed a
model that characterizes the operational impacts of material
degradations so that repairs can be prioritized relative to the
operational requirements of the B-2s. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Defense
generally agreed with the report.  The Department's comments are
presented in their entirety in appendix II, along with our evaluation
of them. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

To identify cost issues, we reviewed annual cost and budgetary
estimates, financial and management reports, contract cost reports,
program schedules and plans, and other documents.  We compared annual
estimates from 1995 to 1997, identifying increases and decreases and
the basis for the changes.  We interviewed Air Force, Defense
Contract Management Command, and contractor financial and technical
mangers to obtain explanations and information on cost issues and
risks remaining in the B-2 program that were not included in the
official reports and documents reviewed.  To identify operational
issues, we reviewed Air Force B-2 contract and operational
requirements documents and operational test reports.  We discussed
deficiencies and planned development and corrective actions with Air
Force B-2 Program, Test, and Operational Command officials to
determine the nature and extent of problems, the impact of problems
on operations, and schedules for achieving full capability. 

We performed our review from November 1996 through July 1997 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :7.1

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Defense
and the Air Force, the Director of the Office of Management and
Budget, and other interested parties.  We will make copies available
to others upon request. 

Please contract me on (202) 512-4841 if you or your staff have any
questions concerning this report.  Major contributors to this report
are listed in appendix III. 

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues

List of Congressional Committees

The Honorable Strom Thurmond
Chairman
The Honorable Carl Levin
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman
The Honorable Daniel K.  Inouye
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Floyd Spence
Chairman
The Honorable Ronald V.  Dellums
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on National Security
House of Representatives

The Honorable C.  W.  Bill Young
Chairman
The Honorable John P.  Murtha
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on National Security
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives


B-2 PROGRAM FISCAL YEAR 1998
PRESIDENT'S BUDGET
=========================================================== Appendix I

                         (Then-year dollars in millions)

                                  Fiscal year
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  1996/                                   2001/
                  prior    1997    1998    1999    2000      04       Total
---------------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ===============
Development
 program
Northrop         $20,26  $489.1  $286.5   $15.8  $183.4   $51.8     $21,295.6
                    8.9
GE Engines        564.0     4.9       0       0       0       0       568.9
Armament          121.2     3.6       0       0       0       0       124.7
Aircrew           561.2     0.2       0       0       0       0       561.4
 training
Mission           252.6    21.6    18.8     8.2       0       0       301.2
 planning
Government test   732.7    36.8    28.1    12.2    13.0    40.4       863.0
Other             573.7     2.3     1.4     0.5     0.5     0.1       579.5
 government
 tests
Engineering           0     9.8    14.9     2.4     5.0     2.2       34.3
 changes
Direct release    316.1    27.2     5.9     6.1     7.6     4.9       367.7
================================================================================
Development      $23,39  $595.5  $355.8   $44.9  $209.5   $99.3     $24,696.3
 total              1.4

Procurement
 program
Air vehicle      $15,27   $38.8   $33.3   $24.3   $49.0   $54.1     $15,476.3
                    6.8
Equipment/       1,418.    24.7    26.0     9.9     2.1     1.9      1,482.9
 data/training        3
Interim           154.6     4.5    44.0    45.6    47.6    10.0       306.3
 contractor
 support
Spares            961.4    35.0    67.9    27.5    26.0    12.7      1,130.5
Retrofit          105.5     6.1    13.8    16.3    22.2    44.1       208.0
Other              90.4     7.1    17.2    17.1    15.4     0.6       147.8
 government
 costs
Software          400.2     1.1    42.4   127.4       0       0       570.9
 support
Mission support    12.3    15.1    11.5    11.2     9.4     9.4       68.9
Facilities        108.9     3.6       0       0       0       0       112.5
================================================================================
Procurement      $18,52  $136.0  $255.9  $279.3  $171.7  $132.8     $19,504.1
 total              8.4
================================================================================
Military         $526.5       0   $27.1       0       0       0      $553.6
 construction
 total
================================================================================
B-2 program      $42,44  $731.5  $638.8  $324.2  $381.2  $232.1     $44,754.0
 total              6.3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source:  Air Force B-2 Program Office. 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix II
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
=========================================================== Appendix I



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)


The following are GAO's comments on the Department of Defense's (DOD)
letter, dated July 14, 1997. 

GAO COMMENTS

1.  DOD officials told us they plan to address the funding shortfall
during the fiscal year 1999 DOD planning and budgeting process, which
is incomplete at this time. 

2.  Cost growth risks will continue until the extent of changes
needed as a result of the remaining test effort has been defined by
the Air Force and it has some assurance that needed changes can be
completed with existing program resources. 

3.  DOD's comments addressed 13 deficiencies already identified but
did not address the potential impact of an additional 60 deficiencies
that DOD suggested could occur.  Although the cost estimate for
development and production includes some provisions for correcting
deficiencies that have not yet been defined, the amounts included are
intended to accommodate corrections of deficiencies that are
relatively minor.  If the Air Force identifies any deficiencies that
involve significant costs to correct, cost estimates could increase. 

4.  Design requirements for the B-2 include provisions for the B-2
aircraft to be deployed, without shelters, in all types of
temperatures and climates.  The operational test report for the
interim B-2 concluded the B-2 must be sheltered or exposed only to
the most benign environments (low humidity, no precipitation,
moderate temperatures).  According to B-2 Combined Test Force
officials, permanent shelters at deployed locations are required. 
Therefore, while DOD commented that it is possible to deploy the B-2,
it appears that effective operations from a forward operation
location will require additional facilities and equipment not
included in the original plan.  The Air Force is still working to
identify these additional requirements. 


MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
========================================================= Appendix III

NATIONAL SECURITY AND
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS DIVISION,
WASHINGTON, D.C. 

David E.  Cooper
Robert D.  Murphy

CHICAGO FIELD OFFICE

Michael J.  Hazard
James R.  Wilson

LOS ANGELES FIELD OFFICE

Joseph E.  Dewechter

RELATED GAO PRODUCTS

B-2 Bomber:  Status of Efforts to Acquire 21 Operational Aircraft
(GAO/NSIAD-97-11, Oct.  2, 1996). 

B-2 Bomber:  Status of Cost, Development, and Production
(GAO/NSIAD-95-164, Aug.  4, 1995). 

B-2 Bomber:  Cost to Complete 20 Aircraft Is Uncertain
(GAO/NSIAD-94-217, Sept.  8, 1994). 


*** End of document. ***



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