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Future Aerospace Ground Test Facility Requirements for the Arnold Engineering Development Center 7 Facility Maintenance, Repair, and Closures The low availability of funding for the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) facility maintenance and repair is of concern, particularly in light of the importance to the nation of many of the older, high-value, wind tunnels. The General Accounting Office (1990) found that similar National Aeronautics and Space Administration facilities that were investing 0.9 to 1.5 percent of replacement value on maintenance and repair were severely deteriorating. AEDC's planned budget for fiscal year 1992 allows only an estimated investment of about 1.1 percent. This estimate is based on the current estimated replacement value of AEDC of $3.64 billion shown in Table 7-1 and a planned FY 1992 expenditure for maintenance and repair of about $41 million as shown in Figure 7-1. With this level of expenditure, the risk of unplanned downtime due to equipment failures is high because of the age of many of the principal facilities. Three of the four facility groups (von Karman Facility [VKF], Propulsion Wind Tunnels [PWT], and Engine Test Facilities [ETF]) were largely built in the 1950s and 1960s, and most of the individual facilities within these groups range in age from 25 to 37 years. Construction was completed on the fourth of the facilities, the Aero-Propulsion Systems Test Facility (ASTF), in 1984. The data in Figure 7-1 also show that available funding for maintenance and repair has been much less than the required funding for a number of years. Thus, the backlog of work to be done has grown to about $86 million at the start of FY 1992. This funding situation is particularly alarming when it is realized that about $32 million of the backlog represents items for which a failure would result in an immediate impact on the mission (AEDC, 1991). Examples of recent failures of this kind occurred to three separate critical components of the PWT and ASTF, and had to be repaired via emergency procurement actions. The PWT failures involved a 35,000-horsepower main compressor drive motor and a 28,500-horsepower plenum evacuation system (PES) compressor motor. These failures required 3 months and $200,000 to repair, and limited the test operating capabilities for the 16T, 16S, and 4T wind tunnels during repair. In the ASTF, the 28-foot diameter exhaust duct expansion joint immediately downstream of the turbine engine test cell ruptured. Procurement and installation of a replacement joint required 5 months at a cost of $100,000. Sixteen other failures of mission-related components occurred during FY 1987-1988. The cost of the projects to repair these failures was $9.1 million. These costs do not include those due to impacts on the test schedules.
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Future Aerospace Ground Test Facility Requirements for the Arnold Engineering Development Center TABLE 7-1 Current Estimated Capital Replacement Values of AEDC Facilities (million 1992 dollars) Technical Facility Replacement Value ASTF 668 ETF 943 PWT 852 VKF 433 Supporting infrastructure 493 Subtotal 3389 Non-real property: computer systems, instruments (tooling), vehicles, shop/office equipment, heavy machines 249 TOTAL 3638 SOURCE: AEDC (personal communication, 1991). FIGURE 7-1 Total maintenance and repair required and funded by fiscal year.
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Future Aerospace Ground Test Facility Requirements for the Arnold Engineering Development Center Whereas the maintenance and repair backlog has been increasing, the budget line item for Real Property Maintenance has been declining for several years and is expected to be only about $8 million in FY 1992 (down from a peak of $14 million in FY 1989). The balance of the $41 million planned for maintenance and repair in FY 1992 ($33 million) must be funded out of the general operating funds provided in the Direct Budget Authority account authorized and appropriated by Congress for AEDC. The maintenance and repair work must compete each year with many other items in this account. The AEDC testing mission requires facilities that must perform safely and reliably after years of cyclic operation and exposure to varying environments. Even though AEDC has been operated safely and reliably for nearly 40 years, recent incidents and concerns over safety of pressure and hazardous materials systems at similar NASA facilities have indicated the need for recertification of the AEDC systems. Equipment subjected either to high pressures or to hazardous materials, such as piping, ducting, expansion joints, valves, gauges, pressure relief devices, flexible hoses, and other critical items, must be recertified. This recertification program is a major challenge and will likely span a period of 10 years with a cost of $15 million to $30 million for inspection and testing (AEDC, 1991). This cost is included in the funding requirements for future years. At this time, it is not possible to accurately estimate the cost of needed repair projects likely to be identified from the inspection and testing effort. Another estimated $180 million of high-value maintenance and repair projects not counted in the current backlog most likely will require funding within the next few years. These include replacing the PES compressors ($54.2 million); the PES motors, switchgear, and valves ($34.6 million); the motor drive for the 16T and 16S wind tunnels ($37.3 million); and the process coolers for the PWT, PES, and VKF ($44.9 million). Failure of any one of several of these components could shut down the PWT complex, the VKF, or both for an extended period of time. Extended unavailability of either of these facilities would have a major impact on the country's aerospace program. The AEDC facilities are very similar in capabilities and age to those at several of the NASA centers. Several years ago, NASA became concerned about the advancing age of many of the major wind tunnels, increases in the incidence of breakdown and operational difficulties, and a growing backlog of required maintenance and repair actions for which resources had not been allocated. This led to a series of studies including an internal assessment of NASA's major wind tunnel facilities in 1987 (NASA, 1987); an NRC committee review (NRC, 1988); a NASA report on facility maintenance (NASA, 1990); and a GAO review (GAO, 1990). Those studies all came to similar conclusions about the cost of maintaining facilities. In particular, the GAO study (1990) found that all of the NASA centers with the exception of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were spending between 0.9 and 1.5 percent of their facilities ' estimated current replacement values on maintenance and that this was resulting in severe deterioration of the facilities and catastrophic breakdowns such as the rupture of a high-pressure steam shutoff valve at the Lewis Research Center in 1989. All of the studies recommended increases in facility maintenance and repair funds. Two studies, NASA (1990) and GAO (1990), recommended following the guidelines of investing between 2 and 4 percent of the capital replacement value as put forth in the NRC (1990) study. As a result of these studies, NASA began a maintenance initiative starting in FY 1991 that increased the level of investment in maintenance and repair
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Future Aerospace Ground Test Facility Requirements for the Arnold Engineering Development Center at the three NASA research centers (Ames, Langley, and Lewis), with facilities most like AEDC's, to about 2 percent of the current capital replacement value. The committee recommends that annual funding of $8 million (and actual expenditures of $41 million amounting to 1.1 percent of current capital replacement value) for maintenance and repair of AEDC facilities be increased to a funding (and expenditure) level of $72.8 million (2 percent of current capital replacement value). Also, a plan should be developed for dealing with the $86 million backlog for normal maintenance and repair items and the $180 million for the special high-value projects. In examining whether individual facilities should be closed, the committee concluded that AEDC has in place an excellent and effective system to review the status of various facilities and their anticipated workload. Facilities are kept in four categories of readiness: active, under modification, stand-by (requiring 3-6 months to activate), and mothballed. Senior AEDC management conducts periodic formal assessments, at least once a year, of the anticipated need for testing. This includes outreach efforts to ascertain DoD and industry projected needs. When responses are received, management then determines the proper approach for each asset. For example, if no workload is seen in the coming year, but need is foreseen for the following year, the facility is placed in the stand-by mode. If no work is foreseen, the facility is mothballed. After a period of time that varies in individual cases, mothballed facilities are decommissioned if they remain unused. The forecasts are for varying time periods as appropriate. For example, anticipated uses for turbine engine test facilities are examined for the coming 8 years. Wind tunnel usage is usually projected for 5-6 years. In addition, AEDC utilizes floating crews that are competent to operate a variety of facilities. Thus, some facilities can remain active without a standing crew. The committee found no instances of facilities that are unjustifiably standing unused for long periods or in which the committee could fault the judgment of the process that is in place. The committee believes appropriate mechanisms exist to evaluate, continually update, and adjust the status of AEDC ground test facilities, including possible closures.
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