Military Personnel:

Joint Officer Development Has Improved, but a Strategic Approach Is Needed

GAO-03-238: Published: Dec 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 2002.

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DOD has increasingly engaged in multiservice and multinational operations. Congress enacted the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, in part, so that DOD's military leaders would be better prepared to plan, support, and conduct joint operations. GAO assessed DOD actions to implement provisions in the law that address the development of officers in joint matters and evaluated impediments affecting DOD's ability to fully respond to the provisions in the act.

DOD has taken positive steps to implement the Goldwater-Nichols Act provisions that address the education, assignment, and promotion of officers serving in joint positions. However, DOD has relied on waivers allowable under the law to comply with the provisions and has experienced difficulties implementing some of its programs. Because of these difficulties, DOD cannot be assured that it is preparing officers in the most effective manner to serve in joint organizations and leadership positions. (1) Education. DOD has met provisions in the act to develop officers through education by establishing a two-phased joint education program, but has not determined how many officers should complete both phases. In fiscal year 2001, only one-third of the officers serving in joint positions had completed both phases of the program. (2) Assignment. DOD has increasingly not filled all of its critical joint duty positions with joint specialty officers, who are required to have both prior education and experience in joint matters. In fiscal year 2001, DOD did not fill 311, or more than one-third, of its critical joint duty positions with joint specialty officers. (3)Promotion. DOD has promoted more officers with prior joint experience to the general and flag officer pay grades. However, in fiscal year 2001, DOD still relied on allowable waivers in lieu of joint experience to promote one in four officers to these senior levels. Beginning in fiscal year 2008, most officers promoted to these senior levels will also have to complete DOD's joint education program or otherwise meet the requirements to be a joint specialty officer. Our analysis of officers promoted in fiscal year 2001 showed that 58 out of 124 officers promoted to the general and flag level did not meet these requirements. DOD has promoted mid-grade officers who serve in joint organizations at rates equal to or better than the promotion rates of their peers. However, DOD has had difficulty meeting this objective for colonels and Navy captains. DOD's ability to respond fully to these provisions has been hindered by the absence of a strategic plan that (1) establishes clear goals for officer development in joint matters and (2) links those goals to DOD's overall mission and goals. DOD has not identified how many joint specialty officers it needs and, without this information, cannot determine if its joint education programs are properly structured. The services vary in the emphasis they place on joint officer development and continue to struggle to balance joint requirements against their own service needs. DOD has also not fully addressed how it will develop reserve officers in joint matters--despite the fact that it is increasingly relying on reservists to carry out its mission. Finally, DOD has not tracked meaningful data consistently to measure progress in meeting the act's provisions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December, 2002, we found that a significant impediment affecting DOD's ability to fully realize the cultural change that was envisioned by the Goldwater-Nichols Act is the fact that DOD had not taken a strategic approach to develop officers in joint matters. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that, at a minimum, should be developed in a manner to provide DOD with more meaningful data to track progress made against the plan. In 2005, RAND issued a report entitled "Framing a Strategic Approach for Joint Officer Management" for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and cited GAO's recommendation that DOD develop a strategic approach to the development of officers in joint matters. RAND further stated in the preface that its report is not intended for those wholly unfamiliar with joint officer matters, but instead follows and responds to the GAO report on this topic. On April 3, 2006, DOD issued its Strategic Plan for Joint Officer Management and Joint Professional Military Education. On March 30, 2007, DOD issued its Joint Officer Management Joint Qualification System Implementation Plan to advance the concepts advocated in the Strategic Plan. The implementation plan outlines various implementation actions, including a specific task to create an IT-enabled system that tracks and reports joint experience when it occurs and also to provide a seamless interface between the services and the appropriate joint qualification approval authority.

    Recommendation: Because the services lack the guidance they need to undertake a unified approach that will address the development of the total force in joint matters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD's overall mission and goals. At a minimum, this plan should be developed in a manner to provide DOD with more meaningful data to track progress made against the plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December, 2002, we found that a significant impediment affecting DOD's ability to fully realize the cultural change that was envisioned by the Goldwater-Nichols Act is the fact that DOD had not taken a strategic approach to develop officers in joint matters. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that, at a minimum, should include provisions for the education and assignment of reservists who are serving in joint organizations. In 2005, RAND issued a report entitled "Framing a Strategic Approach for Joint Officer Management" for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and cited GAO's recommendation that DOD develop a strategic approach to the development of officers in joint matters. RAND further stated in the preface that its report is not intended for those wholly unfamiliar with joint officer matters, but instead follows and responds to the GAO report on this topic. On April 3, 2006, DOD issued its Strategic Plan for Joint Officer Management and Joint Professional Military Education that includes discussion on reserve component joint officer development. On March 30, 2007, DOD issued its Joint Officer Management Joint Qualification System Implementation Plan to advance the concepts advocated in the Strategic Plan.

    Recommendation: Because the services lack the guidance they need to undertake a unified approach that will address the development of the total force in joint matters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD's overall mission and goals. At a minimum, this plan should include provisions for the education and assignment of reservists who are serving in joint organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December, 2002, we found that a significant impediment affecting DOD's ability to fully realize the cultural change that was envisioned by the Goldwater-Nichols Act is the fact that DOD had not taken a strategic approach to develop officers in joint matters. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that, at a minimum, should identify the number of joint specialty officers needed. In 2005, RAND issued a report entitled "Framing a Strategic Approach for Joint Officer Management" for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and cited GAO's recommendation that DOD develop a strategic approach to the development of officers in joint matters. RAND further stated in the preface that its report is not intended for those wholly unfamiliar with joint officer matters, but instead follows and responds to the GAO report on this topic. On April 3, 2006, DOD issued its Strategic Plan for Joint Officer Management and Joint Professional Military Education that includes discussion on the levels of joint officer resources needed and estimates for future needs. On March 30, 2007, DOD issued its Joint Officer Management Joint Qualification System Implementation Plan to advance the concepts advocated in the Strategic Plan.

    Recommendation: Because the services lack the guidance they need to undertake a unified approach that will address the development of the total force in joint matters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD's overall mission and goals. At a minimum, this plan should identify the number of joint specialty officers needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2002, we found that a significant impediment affecting DOD's ability to fully realize the cultural change that was envisioned by the Goldwater-Nichols Act is the fact that DOD had not taken a strategic approach to develop officers in joint matters. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD's overall mission and goals. In 2005, RAND issued a report entitled "Framing a Strategic Approach for Joint Officer Management" for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and cited GAO's recommendation that DOD develop a strategic approach to the development of officers in joint matters. RAND further stated in the preface that its report is not intended for those wholly unfamiliar with joint officer matters, but instead follows and responds to the GAO report on this topic. On April 3, 2006, DOD issued its Strategic Plan for Joint Officer Management and Joint Professional Military Education that includes discussion on DOD's mission and goals, further stating that the Secretary of Defense, with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is responsible for ensuring the joint officer management system supports the overarching mission and goals of DOD. On March 30, 2007, DOD issued its Joint Officer Management Joint Qualification System Implementation Plan to advance the concepts advocated in the Strategic Plan.

    Recommendation: Because the services lack the guidance they need to undertake a unified approach that will address the development of the total force in joint matters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD's overall mission and goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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