Military Readiness:

New Reporting System Is Intended to Address Long-Standing Problems, but Better Planning Is Needed

GAO-03-456: Published: Mar 28, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 2003.

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The Department of Defense's (DOD) readiness assessment system was designed to assess the ability of units and joint forces to fight and meet the demands of the national security strategy. In 1998, GAO concluded that the readiness reports provided to Congress were vague and ineffective as oversight tools. Since that time, Congress added reporting requirements to enhance its oversight of military readiness. Therefore, the Chairman asked GAO to examine (1) the progress DOD made in resolving issues raised in the 1998 GAO report on both the unit-level readiness reporting system and the lack of specificity in DOD's Quarterly Readiness Reports to the Congress, (2) the extent to which DOD has complied with legislative reporting requirements enacted since 1997, and (3) DOD's plans to improve readiness reporting.

Since 1998, DOD has made some progress in improving readiness reporting--particularly at the unit level--but some issues remain. For example, DOD uses readiness measures that vary 10 percentage points or more to determine readiness ratings and often does not report the precise measurements outside DOD. DOD included more information in its Quarterly Readiness Reports to the Congress. But quality issues remain--in that the reports do not specifically describe readiness problems, their effects on readiness, or remedial actions to correct problems. Nor do the reports contain information about funding programmed to address specific remedial actions. Although current law does not specifically require this information, Congress could use it for its oversight role. DOD complied with most, though not all, of the legislative readiness reporting requirements enacted by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Acts for Fiscal Years 1998-2002. For example, DOD (1) is now listing the individual units that have reported low readiness and reporting on the readiness of prepositioned equipment, as required by the fiscal year 1998 Act; (2) is reporting on 11 of 19 readiness indicators that commanders identified as important and that Congress required to be added to the quarterly reports in the fiscal year 1998 Act, but is not reporting on the other 8 readiness indicators; and (3) has not yet implemented a new comprehensive readiness reporting system as required in the fiscal year 1999 Act. As a result, Congress is not receiving all the information mandated by law. DOD issued a directive in June 2002 to establish a new comprehensive readiness reporting system that DOD officials said they plan to use to comply with the reporting requirements specified by Congress. The new system is intended to implement many of the recommendations included in a congressionally directed independent study for establishing such a system. However, the extent to which the new system will actually address the current system's shortcomings is unknown, because the new system is currently only a concept, and full capability is not scheduled until 2007. As of January 2003, DOD had not developed an implementation plan containing measurable performance goals, identification of resources, performance indicators, and an evaluation plan to assess progress in developing the new reporting system. Without such a plan, neither DOD nor the Congress will be able to fully assess whether the new system's development is on schedule and achieving desired results.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree with this recommendation in its comments on the the then-draft report, and is not likely to take the recommended action.

    Recommendation: To improve the information available to Congress for its use in its oversight role, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (OUSD P&R) to improve the quality of information contained in the quarterly reports. Specifically, DOD's reports should explain (in the unclassified section) the most critical readiness issues that are of greatest concern to the department and the services. For each issue, DOD's reports should include an analysis of the readiness deficiencies, including (1) a clear explanation of how the issue affects units' readiness, (2) a statement of the specific remedial actions planned or implemented, and (3) clear statements of the funding programmed to implement each remedial action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree with this recommendation in its comments on the the then-draft report, and is not likely to take the recommended action.

    Recommendation: To be able to assess progress in developing the new readiness system, the Secretary of Defense should direct the OUSD P&R to develop an implementation plan that identifies (1) performance goals that are objective, quantifiable, and measurable; (2) the cost and personnel resources needed to achieve the goals, including an identification of the new system's development and implementation costs in the President's Budget beginning in fiscal year 2005 and Future Years Defense Plan; (3) performance indicators to measure outcomes; (4) an evaluation plan to compare program results with established goals; and (5) milestones to guide development to the planned 2007 full capability date.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree with this recommendation in its comments on the the then-draft report, and is not likely to take the recommended action.

    Recommendation: To assist Congress in its oversight role, the Secretary of Defense should give annual updates to the Congress on the new readiness reporting system's development to include (1) performance measures; (2) progress toward milestones; (3) comparison to progress with established goals; and (4) remedial actions, if needed, to maintain the implementation schedule.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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