Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced significant risks of mission failure and loss of life due to rapidly changing enemy threats. In response, the Department of Defense (DOD) established urgent needs processes to rapidly develop, modify, and field new capabilities, such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) technology, and counter-improvised explosive devices (IED) systems. GAO identified at least 31 entities that play a role in DOD's urgent needs processes and has estimated funding for addressing urgent needs through those entities to be at least $76.9 billion, since 2005.
GAO has identified challenges with the department's fragmented guidance and GAO and others have raised concerns about the numbers and roles of the various entities and processes involved and the potential of overlap and duplication. With the shift in priority for overseas operations from Iraq to Afghanistana theater that may pose more complex long-term challengesdeployed or soon-to-deploy units will likely continue to request critical capabilities to help them accomplish their missions.
Over the past two decades, the fulfillment of urgent needs has evolved as a set of complex processes within the Joint Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, each of the military services, and the combatant commands to rapidly develop, equip, and field solutions and critical capabilities to the warfighter. DOD's experience with the rapidly evolving threats in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to the expanded use of existing urgent needs processes, the creation of new policies, and establishment of new organizations to manage urgent needs and to expedite the development of solutions to address them. However, DOD has not comprehensively evaluated opportunities for consolidation across the department, even though concerns have been raised by the Defense Science Board, GAO, and others about the numbers and roles of the various entities and processes involved and the potential of overlap and duplication. For example, the Defense Science Board, in July and September 2009 reports, found that DOD has done little to adopt urgent needs as a critical, ongoing DOD institutional capability essential to addressing future threats, and has provided recommendations to the department about potential consolidations. Many DOD and military service officials stated that higher-level senior leadership needs to take decisive action to evaluate the breadth of DOD's urgent needs activities to determine what opportunities may exist for reducing unnecessary duplication in staff, information technology, support, and funding.
Additionally, GAO found that overlap exists among urgent needs entities in the roles they play as well as the capabilities for which they are responsible. For example:
The department is hindered in its ability to identify key improvements, including consolidation to reduce any overlap, duplication, or fragmentation because it lacks a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its urgent needs efforts. Specifically, DOD does not have a comprehensive, DOD-wide policy that establishes a baseline and provides a common approach for how all joint and military service urgent needs are to be addressedincluding key activities of the process such as validation, execution, or tracking. For example, the Joint Staff, the Joint IED Defeat Organization, the military services, and the Special Operations Command have issued their own guidance that varies in terms of the key activities associated with processing and meeting urgent needsincluding how an urgent needs statement is generated by the warfighter, validated as an urgent requirement, and tracked after a solution is provided. Furthermore, DOD does not have visibility over the full range of its urgent needs efforts. For example, DOD cannot readily identify the cost of its departmentwide urgent needs efforts, which is at least $76.9 billion since 2005 based on GAO's analysis. Additionally, DOD does not have a comprehensive tracking system, a set of universal metrics, and a senior-level focal point to lead the department's efforts to fulfill validated urgent needs requirements. Without DOD-wide guidance and a focal point to lead its efforts, DOD risks having duplicative, overlapping, and fragmented efforts, which can result in avoidable costs.
Estimate is based on funding data provided by urgent needs-related entities responding to our data collection instrument and includes funding for processing of urgent needs as well as development of solutions and some acquisition costs.
In the absence of a comprehensive DOD evaluation, GAO's March 2011 report identified and analyzed several options, aimed at potential consolidations and increased efficiencies in an effort intended to provide ideas for the department to consider in streamlining its urgent needs entities and processes. These options include the following:
The options GAO identified are not meant to be exhaustive or mutually exclusive. Rather, DOD would need to perform its own analysis, carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of options it identifies to determine the optimal course of action. Additionally, it must be recognized that many entities involved in the fulfillment of urgent needs have other roles as well. However, until DOD performs such an evaluation, it will remain unaware of opportunities for consolidation and increased efficiencies in the fulfillment of urgent needs.
GAO's March 2011 report recommended that the department develop comprehensive guidance that, among other things, creates a focal point to lead its urgent needs efforts. Additionally, GAO recommended that DOD's Chief Management Officer evaluate potential options for consolidation to reduce overlap, duplication, and fragmentation and take appropriate action. DOD concurred with these recommendations. This is an issue that may warrant continuing congressional oversight. Timely and effective actions on these recommendations should improve DOD's ability to address urgent warfighter needs in the most efficient and cost-effective manner by minimizing the risks of duplication, overlap, and fragmentation.
The information contained in this analysis is based on the related GAO products listed under the "Related GAO Products" tab.
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