The US Army, Navy and Air Force do not collect a standard set of aviation mishap data, resulting in possible errors in the analysis of accidents and a slowdown in the time it takes to pass critical information to military decision makers, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published 15 August.

The GAO found that the safety centres for the services did not collect standardised data for 10 to 17 of the 35 agreed-upon data elements for aviation mishaps that are required to be provided to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). As a result, OSD must perform time-consuming manipulation and interpretation of certain data elements received from the safety centres to compare the information and analyse it, the report says.

It was also found that certain data related to pilots' training records were not being collected in all mishap investigations, such as information on a pilots' recent flying experience or training proficiency in the task or mission performed during a mishap, according to the report. And, variations were found in how certain training-related data were being recorded in the safety centres' data systems.

The GAO noted that studies have suggested that training shortfalls are a potential indicator of recent increases in certain types of aviation mishaps, but further analysis is prevented due to a lack of sufficient training data.

The report comes a little over a week after the DoD’s Inspector General issued a report criticising the US Marine Corps’ ability to accurately report the present state of their squadron’s aircraft readiness due to confusion about what data should be recorded. In response to the findings, it was recommended that the USMC clarify its definitions and processes – suggestions the service says it will implement.

In the mishap report, the GAO recommends that the DoD take steps to standardise the aviation mishap data that are collected by the services’ safety centres and identify new training-related data to collect for improved analysis, among other processes updates. The DoD agreed with the recommendations and says it plans to implement the ideas.