Military Training:

DOD Report on Training Ranges Does Not Fully Address Congressional Reporting Requirements

GAO-04-608: Published: Jun 4, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 2004.

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Section 366 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 required the Secretary of Defense to develop a report outlining a comprehensive plan to address training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and air space that are available in the United States and overseas for training. The foundation for that plan is an inventory identifying training resources, capacities and capabilities, and limitations. In response to section 366, this report discusses the extent to which (1) the Office of the Secretary of Defense's (OSD) training range inventory is sufficient for developing the comprehensive training range plan and (2) OSD's 2004 training range report meets other requirements mandated by section 366.

OSD's training range inventory does not yet contain sufficient information to use as a baseline for developing the comprehensive training range plan required by section 366. As a result, OSD's training range report does not lay out a comprehensive plan to address training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and air space that are available in the United States and overseas for training. First, OSD's training range inventory does not fully identify available training resources, specific capacities and capabilities, and existing training constraints caused by encroachment or other factors to serve as the baseline for the comprehensive training range plan. Second, OSD and the services' inventories are not integrated, readily available, or accessible by potential users so that commanders can schedule the best available resources to provide the required training. Third, OSD's training range report does not include a comprehensive plan with quantifiable goals or milestones for tracking planned actions to measure progress, or projected funding requirements needed to implement the plan. Instead, the report provides the current status of the four services' various sustainable range efforts in the United States, which if successful, overtime should provide a more complete picture of the magnitude and impact of constraints on training. OSD's training range report does not fully address other requirements mandated by section 366. For example, the report does not: (1) fully assess current and future training range requirements; (2) fully evaluate the adequacy of current resources to meet current and future training range requirements in the United States and overseas; (3) identify recommendations for legislative or regulatory changes to address training constraints, even though the Department of Defense (DOD) submitted legislative changes for congressional consideration on April 6, 2004; or (4) contain plans to improve readiness reporting.

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

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve future reports, the Office of the Secretary of Defense should provide a more complete report to the Congress to fully address the requirements specified in the section 366 mandate by assessing current and future training range requirements and evaluating the adequacy of current resources to meet these requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD's 2007 sustainable ranges report describes the initial steps DOD has taken to meet the requirements to conduct an assessment of current and future training range requirements and an evaluation of the adequacy of current DOD resources. The report also presents information that illustrates the services' assessments of their range capabilities, shortfalls, and encroachment issues. These assessments also help to address the congressional reporting requirement for DOD's training range inventory to identify all training capacities and capabilities available at each training range and to identify training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace at each training range.

    Recommendation: To improve future reports, the Office of the Secretary of Defense should provide a more complete report to the Congress to fully address the requirements specified in the section 366 mandate by developing a comprehensive plan that includes quantifiable goals and milestones for tracking planned actions and measuring progress, and projected funding requirements to more fully address identified training constraints.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness signed DOD's fourth annual sustainable ranges report on July 13, 2007. This report provides an update of the actions taken in response to program goals and milestones DOD presented in its sustainable range plan the previous 2 years. The combined, updated plan also assigns responsibility for implementation of actions and provides performance metrics to measure progress in addressing sustainment issues. In addition to the annual sustainable ranges reports, progress on range sustainment as part of the overall training transformation effort is contained in the training transformation implementation plan, and is regularly updated on a quarterly basis. According to DOD officials, tracking and reporting on sustainable ranges goals and milestones an ongoing, evolutionary process. DOD expects to show continued, substantive progress over time as the military services track and report on the sustainable ranges goals and milestones in the years ahead. The services will also continue to refine their reporting measures and process whenever appropriate based on emerging issues and adaptive DOD and service range sustainment measures.

    Recommendation: To serve as the baseline for the comprehensive training range plan required by section 366, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the secretaries of the military services to jointly develop an integrated training range database that identifies available training resources, specific capacities and capabilities, and training constraints caused by limitations on the use of training ranges, which could be continuously updated and shared among the services at all command levels, regardless of service ownership.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness signed DOD's fourth annual sustainable ranges report and inventory on July 13, 2007. Although DOD's 2007 report and inventory still do not fully address all of the elements of section 366 required for DOD's original fiscal year 2004 report and inventory, DOD has continued to improve them and the current report and inventory represent an improvement over those from previous years. For the first time, DOD included the results of an assessment of current and future training range requirements and an evaluation of the adequacy of current DOD range resources. DOD also provided information that illustrates the services' assessments of their range capabilities and encroachment issues. These assessments also help to identify all training capacities and capabilities available at each training range and to identify training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace at each range. DOD stated again this year that a Web-based system similar to those developed by the Marine Corps and the Army, which could be linked to each service's range inventories and schedules, is an achievable and satisfactory way to arrive at a DOD-wide system. We continue to believe that this suggestion is a step in the right direction and could achieve many of the benefits we envisioned in our prior recommendation for an inventory that could be readily accessible to users across the department.

    Recommendation: To improve future reports, the Office of the Secretary of Defense should provide a more complete report to the Congress to fully address the requirements specified in the section 366 mandate by developing a readiness reporting system to reflect the impact on readiness caused by training constraints due to limitations on the use of training ranges.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness signed DOD's fourth annual sustainable ranges report and inventory on July 13, 2007. This is the first time that the Defense Readiness Reporting System has been addressed in DOD's annual sustainable ranges reports. The 2007 report states that the Defense Readiness Reporting System is currently being modified to provide the ability to relate changes in reported unit readiness to training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace. DOD has also conducted a series of workshops that brought together various DOD range stakeholders to establish clear expectations and coordinate actions to support readiness reporting.

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