Defense Management:

Munitions Requirements and Combatant Commanders' Needs Require Linkage

GAO-03-17: Published: Oct 15, 2002. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2002.

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Barry W. Holman
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The Department of Defense (DOD) planned to spend $7.9 billion on acquiring munitions in fiscal year 2002. Ongoing military operations associated with the global war on terrorism have heightened concerns about the unified combatant commands having sufficient quantities of munitions. Since 1994, the DOD Inspector General and GAO have issued numerous reports identifying weaknesses and expressing concerns about the accuracy of the process used by the department to determine munitions requirements. DOD has improved its munitions requirements process by eliminating most of the systematic problems--correcting questionable and inconsistently applied data, completing target templates, and resolving issues involving the level of detail that should be included in planning guidance. However, a fundamental problem remains unaddressed--inadequate linkage between the near-term munitions needs of the combatant commands and the purchases made by the military services based on computations derived from the department's munitions requirement determination process. The department's munitions requirements process provides varied answers for current munitions acquisitions questions because of the aforementioned disjunction. As a result, the services, in the short term, are purchasing some critically needed munitions based on available funding and contractors' production capacity. Although this approach may be necessary in the short term, it raises questions as to whether over the long term it would position the services to make the most efficient use of appropriated funds and whether the needs of combatant commands to carry out their missions will be met.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish a direct link between the munitions needs of the combatant commands--recognizing the impact of weapons systems and munitions preferred or expected to be employed--and the munitions requirements determinations and purchasing decisions made by the military services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with GAO's recommendation and stated that this disjunction would be corrected in the next update of its instruction governing munitions requirements determinations. On October 23, 2003, the Department of Defense reissued Instruction 3000.4, which governs the munitions requirements process. A key provision of the new instruction requires the Secretaries of the military departments to coordinate their current munitions requirements with the combatant commanders to ensure that the munitions requirements support the near-term focus (generally 2 years) of the combatant commanders' phased threat distributions and war plans. This linkage should result in more accurate munitions requirements determinations and purchasing decisions and help prevent the combatant commanders from having munitions shortages.

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