The Mobility Metric Quandary

The Government Accountability Office in its new report on strategic air mobility questions whether the Defense Department will include in its upcoming Mobility Capabilities Study the long-used mobility yardstick that it eschewed in the last MCS. Congress noted the absence of the million ton miles per day measure in the previous MCS (released in December 2005) and told DOD to put it back. The MTM/D metric had been used for more than 45 years to determine mobility requirements, and some defense analysts believe DOD basically cooked the books in the last MCS, which disputed findings of an earlier study that said the Air Force was short on strategic airlift capacity (see Rising Risk in Air Mobility). As we reported yesterday, this new GAO report cautions against premature shutdown of the C-17 production line. It also notes that some defense analysts “expect the [two new] studies will identify increased demands on airlift.” The GAO was able to elicit MTM/D estimates (see Data Points: The Mobility Metric Quandary) from DOD as the number of C-5s and C-17s has fluctuated over the past three years, however the Congressional watchdog agency hasn’t been able to pin down the metrics to be used in either of the new studies. Despite DOD’s assurance, in response to the GAO report, that it plans to use “appropriate metrics (to include ton-miles per day),” a US Transportation Command official told GAO a decision on metrics had not been made. Isn’t it high time