Reserve Forces:

Actions Needed to Better Prepare the National Guard for Future Overseas and Domestic Missions

GAO-05-21: Published: Nov 10, 2004. Publicly Released: Nov 16, 2004.

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The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the global war on terrorism have triggered the largest activation of National Guard forces since World War II. As of June 2004, over one-half of the National Guard's 457,000 personnel had been activated for overseas warfighting or domestic homeland security missions in federal and state active duty roles. In addition to increased usage, the Guard has also experienced long deployments and high demand for personnel with specific skills, such as military police. The high pace of operations and the Guard's expanded role since September 11 have raised concerns about whether the Guard is capable of successfully performing its multiple missions within existing and expected resource levels, especially given the challenges it faces in meeting future requirements. GAO was asked to assess the extent to which the Guard is: (1) adapting to meet warfighting requirements in the post-September 11 security environment and (2) supporting immediate and emerging homeland security needs.

The Army and the Air National Guard have begun adapting their forces to meet new warfighting requirements since the September 11 attacks, but some measures taken to meet short-term requirements have degraded the readiness of nondeployed units, particularly in the Army National Guard. To deploy ready units for overseas missions, the Army National Guard has had to transfer equipment and personnel from nondeploying units. Between September 11, 2001, and July 2004, the Army National Guard had performed over 74,000 personnel transfers. Similarly, as of May 2004, the Army National Guard had transferred over 35,000 equipment items to prepare deploying units, leaving nondeployed Army National Guard units short one-third of the critical equipment they need for war. The Army has developed plans, such as the Army Campaign Plan, to restructure its forces to better prepare them for future missions. However, it has not finalized detailed plans identifying equipment needs and costs for restructuring Guard units. Moreover, the Army is still structured and funded according to a resourcing plan that does not provide Guard units all the personnel and equipment they need to deploy in wartime, so the Army National Guard will be challenged to continue to provide ready units for operations expected in the next 3 to 5 years. The Air National Guard is also adapting to meet new warfighting requirements, but it has not been as negatively affected as the Army National Guard because it has not been required to sustain the same high level of operations. In addition, the Air National Guard generally maintains fully manned and equipped units. While the Army and the Air National Guard have, thus far, also supported the nation's homeland security needs, the Guard's preparedness to perform homeland security missions that may be needed in the future is unknown because requirements and readiness standards and measures have not been defined. Without this information, policy makers are not in the best position to manage the risks to the nation's homeland security by targeting investments to the highest priority needs and ensuring that the investments are having the desired effect. Since September 11, the Guard has been performing several unanticipated homeland missions, such as flying patrols over U.S. cities and guarding critical infrastructure. However, states have concerns about the preparedness and availability of Guard forces for domestic needs and natural disasters while overseas deployments continue at a high pace. The Department of Defense (DOD) plans to publish a comprehensive strategy for homeland security missions that DOD will lead. However, DOD has not reached agreement with multiple federal and state authorities on the Guard's role in such missions. Also, the National Guard Bureau has proposed initiatives to strengthen the Guard's homeland security capabilities. However, many of these initiatives are at an early stage and will require coordination and approval from other stakeholders, such as DOD and the states. In the absence of clear homeland security requirements, the Guard's preparedness to perform missions at home cannot be measured to determine whether it needs additional assets or training.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In June 2005, the Department of Defense published a strategy for homeland defense and civil support that recognizes the important role of the National Guard in these federal missions. However, the strategy does not detail specific requirements for forces and equipment for these missions. Northern Command planning has not been completed to a level needed to determine how the National Guard will be used for homeland defense and homeland security missions or the equipment it will require.

    Recommendation: As DOD completes its homeland defense strategy and the Northern Command refines its concept and operational plans for homeland defense and support to civil authorities and defines requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and for Personnel and Readiness, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, the Chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and appropriate officials in the Department of Homeland Security, to develop a plan that addresses any shortfalls of personnel, equipment, and training, assigns responsibility for actions, establishes time frames for implementing the plan, and identifies required funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181), Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to take actions to identify the National Guard's capabilities needed to perform some homeland missions and any shortfalls in equipment and training needed to perform these missions. Specifically, the act requires the Secretary of Defense to prepare two versions of a plan for response to natural disasters and terrorist events that include an identification of the training and equipment needed for National Guard personnel to provide military assistance to civil authorities and for other domestic operations to respond to hazards identified in the national planning scenarios. In addition, the Act requires an assessment of the extent to which the National Guard possesses the equipment required to perform responsibilities in response to an emergency or major disaster and identify any shortfalls in equipment provided to the National Guard by the Department of Defense that is likely to affect the ability of the National Guard to perform such responsibilities.

    Recommendation: As DOD completes its homeland defense strategy and the Northern Command refines its concept and operational plans for homeland defense and support to civil authorities and defines requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and for Personnel and Readiness, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, the Chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and appropriate officials in the Department of Homeland Security, to identify the National Guard's capabilities to perform these missions and any shortfalls in personnel, equipment, and training needed to perform these missions successfully.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2005, the Department of Defense published a strategy for homeland defense and civil support that recognizes the important role of the National Guard in these federal missions. However, the strategy does not detail specific requirements for forces and equipment for these missions. Northern Command planning has not been completed to a level needed to determine how the National Guard will be used for homeland defense and homeland security missions or the equipment it will require.

    Recommendation: As DOD completes its homeland defense strategy and the Northern Command refines its concept and operational plans for homeland defense and support to civil authorities and defines requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and for Personnel and Readiness, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, the Chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and appropriate officials in the Department of Homeland Security, to establish the full range of the National Guard's homeland missions, including those led by DOD and those conducted in support of civilian authorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with the recommendation, and the Department of Defense partially addressed the role of the Guard in the Quadrennial Defense Review, recognizing the operational role of the National Guard in the War on Terrorism. The Army addressed the readiness of the Army National Guard in the Army Campaign Plan (Change 6) which sets out its intention to equip Guard units to readiness similar to the active component and has provided more equipment to the Army National Guard that has improved its overall equipment status. However, the Army has not developed a detailed plan for additional improvements or detailed future costs of to implement planned readiness improvements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and submit to Congress a strategy that addresses the Army National Guard's needs for the global war on terrorism, including the Army National Guard's anticipated role, missions, and requirements for personnel and equipment in both the near and long term. The long-term portion of the strategy should detail how the Army plans to restructure and provide the Guard resources--personnel, equipment, and training--consistent with its 21st century role, including the time frames for implementing restructuring actions, the resources needed to achieve compatibility with active forces and the appropriate level of readiness for their missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with the recommendation. The Army addressed the readiness of the Army National Guard in the Army Campaign Plan (Change 6) which sets out its intention to equip Guard units to readiness similar to the active component and has provided more equipment to the Army National Guard that has improved its overall equipment status.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and submit to Congress a strategy that addresses the Army National Guard's needs for the global war on terrorism, including the Army National Guard's anticipated role, missions, and requirements for personnel and equipment in both the near and long term. The long-term portion of the strategy should detail how the Army plans to restructure and provide the Guard resources--personnel, equipment, and training--consistent with its 21st century role, including how the Army National Guard will be restructured to support future missions and ensure operational compatibility with active forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with the recommendation. The Army addressed the readiness of the Army National Guard in the Army Campaign Plan (Change 6) which sets out its intention to equip Guard units to readiness similar to the active component and has provided more equipment to the Army National Guard that has improved its overall equipment status. According to the Army, it has spent over $20 billion for reserve equipment since 2003. This has brought the level of equipment units have on hand and enhanced readiness.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and submit to Congress a strategy that addresses the Army National Guard's needs for the global war on terrorism, including the Army National Guard's anticipated role, missions, and requirements for personnel and equipment in both the near and long term. The near-term portion of the strategy should address the current decline in readiness for overseas missions and the Army National Guard's plans to provide the ready forces needed for the global war on terrorism over the next 3 to 5 years. Specifically it should include a plan to manage the risk associated with the declining readiness of nondeployed Army National Guard forces, including identifying funding for any personnel and equipment required to mitigate unacceptable levels of risk.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with the recommendation. The Army addressed the readiness of the Army National Guard in the Army Campaign Plan (Change 6) which sets out its intention to equip Guard units to readiness similar to the active component and has provided more equipment to the Army National Guard that has improved its overall equipment status. However, the Army has not developed a detailed plan for additional improvements or detailed future costs of to implement planned readiness improvements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and submit to Congress a strategy that addresses the Army National Guard's needs for the global war on terrorism, including the Army National Guard's anticipated role, missions, and requirements for personnel and equipment in both the near and long term. The near-term portion of the strategy should address the current decline in readiness for overseas missions and the Army National Guard's plans to provide the ready forces needed for the global war on terrorism over the next 3 to 5 years. Specifically it should include an analysis of how support for current operations will affect the readiness of nondeployed Army National Guard forces for future overseas and domestic missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress directed DOD to report on the readiness of the National Guard to perform tasks required to support the National Response Plan for support to civil authorities in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181). The act requires DOD to submit to Congress a description of the mechanisms to be used in assessing the personnel, equipment, and training readiness of the National Guard, including the standards and measures that will be applied and mechanisms for sharing information on such matters with the governors of the states.

    Recommendation: As DOD completes its homeland defense strategy and the Northern Command refines its concept and operational plans for homeland defense and support to civil authorities and defines requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and for Personnel and Readiness, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, the Chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and appropriate officials in the Department of Homeland Security, to establish readiness standards and measures for the Guard's homeland security missions so that the readiness for these missions can be systematically measured and accurately reported.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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