Category Archives: DoD

Corrosion Costs U.S. DOD $20.9 Billion Annually

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that corrosion costs the Department about $20.9 billion annually.

Corrosion can negatively affect all military assets, including both equipment and infrastructure, and is defined as the deterioration of a material or its properties due to a reaction of that material with its environment. Corrosion also affects military readiness by taking critical systems out of action and creating safety hazards.

Section 2228 of Title 10 of the United States Code requires DOD, as part of its annual budget submission, to submit a report to Congress on corrosion funding. In the report, DOD is to include (1) funding requirements for its long-term corrosion reduction strategy, (2) the return-oninvestment (ROI) that would be achieved by implementing the strategy, (3) the current and previous fiscal year funds requested in the budget compared to funding requirements, (4) an explanation if funding requirements are not fully funded in the budget, (5) the amount of funds requested for both the current and previous fiscal years in the budget for each project or activity described in DOD’s long-term strategy compared to the funding requirements for the project or activity, and (6) a copy of the annual corrosion report most recently submitted by the corrosion control and prevention executive of each military department as an annex to its report. The military departments’ reports are to include recommendations pertaining to the department’s corrosion control and prevention program and related funding levels to carry out all of the duties of the corrosion control and prevention executive. Corrosion also affects military readiness by taking critical systems out of action and creating safety hazards.

Section 2228 also requires us to analyze DOD’s budget submission and report and provide an assessment to the congressional defense committees within 60 days after the submission of the budget for the fiscal year, which this year occurred on February 13, 2012. DOD submitted its annual report to Congress on May 21, 2012, and we received the report on May 23, 2012. Our objectives were to (1) determine the extent to which DOD’s corrosion report included the mandated elements, (2) assess the extent to which DOD’s Corrosion Prevention and Control (CPC) funding request met total estimated CPC funding requirements for activities and preliminary project proposals as identified in the fiscal year 2013 corrosion report, and (3) calculate the potential cost avoidance that DOD may achieve by funding CPC at the level requested in its fiscal year 2013 corrosion budget materials report and the cost avoidance DOD may miss by not fully funding its requirements. Enclosure I provides briefing slides for congressional committees detailing the results of our analysis of DOD’s CPC budget request and the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight’s (CPO) accompanying report for fiscal year 2013.


To ensure that Congress has the accurate and comprehensive information it needs to exercise its oversight responsibilities, we recommend for fiscal year 2013 and beyond that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to take the following three actions:

  • Provide in the annual corrosion budget report to Congress a more detailed explanation of the development of DOD’s funding requirements.
  • Include in the annual corrosion budget report to Congress 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.
  • Provide in the annual corrosion budget report to Congress an explanation of DOD’s ROI methodology and analysis, including both projected and, to the extent available, validated ROIs.


In summary, we found that DOD’s fiscal year 2013 corrosion budget report to Congress (1) included some, but not all of the six mandated elements; (2) included a funding request that equals DOD’s fiscal year 2013 stated requirements for corrosion activities and projects; and (3) lacked information needed to calculate the potential cost avoidance. First, DOD included three of the six mandated elements, did not include two of the elements, and one of the elements was not applicable this year. For example, DOD included the most recent annual corrosion reports of the military departments, attached in an annex. However, it did not include the funds requested in the budget compared to the funding requirements for the fiscal year covered by the report or the previous fiscal year. Second, DOD officials stated that the fiscal year 2013 budget request and the fiscal year 2013 funding requirements for activities and projects are the same this year–$9.1 million. According to these officials, DOD does not have any fiscal year 2013 unfunded requirements for corrosion activities and projects. Third, we did not calculate the cost avoidance DOD could achieve with its fiscal year 2013 budget request, because the analysis that DOD provided does not support the 14 to1 average ROI for projects cited in its report. Further, we did not calculate the cost avoidance that DOD might be missing by not funding its requirements, because DOD officials said that they do not have any unfunded requirements this year. 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.


Robins Air Force Base stresses old adage: ‘Rust not, want not’

Rust and corrosion are the mortal enemies of metal. They infiltrate, weaken and sap the usefulness.

And when those culprits attack Air Force aircraft, the effects can be devastating. That’s where the Air Force Corrosion Control Office comes in. The unit, stationed at Robins Air Force Base, is not staffed with caped crusaders, but it does have a cadre of well-schooled people armed with the latest information and techniques. Their job is to share that expertise throughout the Air Force.

“We work with corrosion managers at all the major commands,” reported Capt. Mary Gutierrez, lead corrosion engineer for the local office. “They, in turn, filter things down to the field units. But we also take questions from field units daily, so we try to interface with all of them.”

That interface is critical in today’s Air Force. Airmen are flying and maintaining the oldest fleet in Air Force history, with some aircraft in the fourth and fifth decade of service. With budget constraints preventing wholesale purchase of new systems, the corrosion prevention mission has assumed even greater importance.

The questions from the field are usually practical ones – questions about paints, primers, pretreatments, aircraft wash materials, solvents, plastic media blasting.

“A lot of the time it is questions about how they can do things faster and cheaper,” noted Senior Master Sgt. Scott Pagenkopf, the Air Force corrosion program manager. “We have the experience on almost anything out there.”

The 17-member office has virtually all the bases covered. Two senior non-commissioned officers have years of experience as aircraft maintainers. Half of the office is a contract employee staffed by retired senior enlisted members who spent their Air Force careers in corrosion control or structural maintenance. Engineers fill the remaining slots.

They have their hands full. A recent Defense Department study completed in 2009 showed that $5.4 billion are spent every year to prevent or correct corrosion on aircraft and missiles.

The current war in Southwest Asia is not making the job any easier. The sand, dust and salt air all take their toll.

“A study we did several years ago showed the sand over there to be more corrosive than the sand we find in our desert environment,” said Gutierrez. “The sand particles are much finer.”

The preferred sand-removal technique in the battle zone is vacuuming rather than washing. “If we mix that sand with water, it can create a worse corrosion environment,” she pointed out.

When aircraft return to the U.S., the process continues. “We ask that (maintainers) first clean out the aircraft as best they can before they wash it,” Gutierrez added. “We also ask that they wash the aircraft before they depart on deployment.”

The annual Air Force Corrosion Control Conference set for August 16-18 at the Museum of Aviation at Robins is a focal point for information exchange. It will draw more than 250 visitors from throughout the Defense Department and private industry along with some 70 exhibitors.

“We will also have an area for training that will help make the job easier and more streamlined for our field-level people,” Pagenkopf said. “The conference gives us a chance to get together with people in the field and show them what’s coming down the road.”

Devices to better probe the aircraft’s internal crevices and crannies will be one prominent subject at the three-day meeting. Maintainers in the field already have boroscopes that aid in the process. The latest innovation calls for developing different attachments to expand that capability.

“We’re trying to find one (attachment) that can vacuum out water, small debris as well as sand,” Gutierrez said. “We’re also trying to find other attachments that can remove corrosion or apply corrosion preventative compounds.”

Knowledge is power in the corrosion prevention business, particularly as aircraft age and the fighting environment proves hostile.

“That’s why we’ve been trying to find new technologies,” she stressed, “and making sure the best corrosion practices are spread around the Air Force.”