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Solid Rocket Motors: GAO Studies Supply Concerns and Challenges

Industry trends of solid rocket motor manufacturers since 1995.

Industry trends of solid rocket motor manufacturers since 1995.

December 4, 2017 | Source: Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report, GAO-18-45, October 2017, gao.gov

Over the past two decades, the solid rocket motor (SRM) industrial base has undergone various changes including consolidation and recent expansion. Specifically, since 1995, the industry has consolidated from six U.S. manufacturers to two U.S. manufacturers. With regard to expansion, a foreign supplier entered the market in 2012, and in 2017, a U.S. firm, which is ultimately foreign-owned, was also established. According to the Department of Defense (DOD) while it supports competition, its current demand for SRMs can only sustain two manufacturers. Although at this stage it is too early to know how, or if, these new entrants will impact the economic viability of the more long-standing U.S. manufacturers.

DOD relies on a multi-tiered supply chain to provide SRMs, the propulsion systems behind the various missile systems that provide defense capabilities to meet U.S. national security objectives. The SRM industrial base includes manufacturers that turn to an extensive network of suppliers that provide the raw materials, components, and subsystems needed to build SRMs. DOD is responsible for developing a strategy for the national industrial base that ensures that defense contractors and their suppliers are capable of providing the goods and services needed to achieve national security objectives.

GAO was asked to review the state of the U.S. industrial base for SRMs. This report addresses (1) SRM industry trends, (2) single source supplier risks, and (3) opportunities for SRM manufacturers’ engineering workforce development. GAO analyzed DOD’s annual industrial capabilities reports to Congress for fiscal years 2009 through 2016, which reflect DOD’s most current information on SRM risks, and reviewed DOD budget data and information from missile prime contractors and SRM manufacturers. GAO also interviewed missile prime contractors, SRM manufacturer representatives, and officials from DOD and the military departments.

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