Military Transformation:

Actions Needed by DOD to More Clearly Identify New Triad Spending and Develop a Long-term Investment Approach

GAO-05-540: Published: Jun 30, 2005. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2005.

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In its December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, the Department of Defense (DOD) created a New Triad by significantly changing its definition and conceptual framework for its strategic capabilities to include not only the nuclear capabilities of the old Triad that consisted of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers, but also the capabilities of offensive conventional strike forces, active and passive defenses, and a revitalized defense infrastructure. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which DOD has (1) identified the projected spending for the New Triad in its Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) and (2) developed a long-term investment approach to identify and manage future spending for the New Triad.

Although DOD broadened its definition of strategic capabilities during the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review and established a New Triad, it has not developed a way to use the FYDP to identify the total amount it plans to spend to sustain and enhance New Triad capabilities during the next few years. The FYDP is one of the principal tools available to help inform DOD and Congress about spending plans for the next 5 years and to make informed decisions in light of competing priorities. While DOD has identified some New Triad spending included in the FYDP, it has not identified all associated spending. GAO's notional analysis of New Triad-related programs in the FYDP through 2009 shows that overall spending could be significantly greater than DOD's limited analyses have identified to date. According to DOD officials, DOD has not fully identified spending in the FYDP because of the diversity and broad scope of the concept. A mechanism for aggregating FYDP data, known as a "virtual major force program," could help DOD address these obstacles and provide the Secretary of Defense and Congress with better visibility into overall DOD spending plans for the New Triad. DOD also faces long-term affordability challenges in funding the New Triad. However, it has not developed an overarching and integrated long-term investment approach to identify the projected resource requirements and funding timelines to acquire and sustain New Triad capabilities beyond the period of time covered by FYDP. Long-term capital investment planning is an important tool to help organizations establish priorities and develop future budgets. DOD is likely to face significant affordability challenges in the long term in deciding the mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities needed to implement the vision of the New Triad, as existing nuclear weapons platforms begin to reach the end of their lives within the next 15 years and missile defense capabilities are expanding. While DOD has identified some near-term investments, its investment plans are incomplete and it lacks a comprehensive strategy for developing a long-term plan.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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 strengthen DOD's implementation of the New Triad and provide greater transparency of resources that are being applied to developing, acquiring, and sustaining the needed capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), to report each year the funding levels for New Triad activities and capabilities in the department's summary FYDP report to Congress. The Secretary of Defense should direct that these three actions be completed at or about the time when the President's budget for fiscal year 2007 is submitted to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation and does not plan to implement it.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DOD's implementation of the New Triad and provide greater transparency of resources that are being applied to developing, acquiring, and sustaining the needed capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), to modify the FYDP to establish a virtual major force program for the New Triad by creating new data fields that would clearly identify and allow aggregation of New Triad-related program elements to provide increased visibility of the resources allocated for New Triad activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation and does not plan to implement it.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DOD's implementation of the New Triad and provide greater transparency of resources that are being applied to developing, acquiring, and sustaining the needed capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), to develop and obtain approval of a comprehensive list of program elements in the FYDP, which support activities for developing, acquiring, and sustaining New Triad capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation and does not plan to implement it.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DOD's implementation of the New Triad and provide greater transparency of resources that are being applied to developing, acquiring, and sustaining the needed capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to develop an overarching and integrated long-term investment approach for the New Triad that provides decision makers with information about future joint requirements, projected resources, spending priorities and trade-offs, milestones, and funding timelines. As part of developing and implementing this approach, DOD should leverage the analyses, assessments, and other information prepared under the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System process. The Secretary of Defense should direct that development of a long-term investment approach be completed in time for it to be considered in the department's preparation of its submission for the President's budget for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 and be updated, as needed, to adapt to changing circumstances.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our report Military Transformation: Actions Needed by DOD to More Clearly Identify New Triad Spending and Develop a Long-term Investment Approach (GAO-05-540) we examined the extent to which DOD had developed a long-term investment approach to identify and manage future spending for the New Triad as defined in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Long-term capital investment planning is an important tool to help organizations establish priorities and develop future budgets. We found that DOD is likely to face significant affordability challenges in the long-term in deciding the capabilities needed to implement the vision of the New Triad without such a plan. We recommended that DOD take actions to provide greater visibility of the projected spending and future investments for the creation of the New Triad and acquisition of future capabilities. DOD concurred with our recommendation and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported in the 2006 Program Assessment Rating Tool that DOD had taken steps to develop an overarching and integrated long-term investment approach for New Triad initiatives as GAO recommended. OMB reported that DOD's NPR Strategic Capabilities Assessment identified shortfalls in capabilities that will be used to develop individual investment strategies. These strategies will be used in the overarching integration of these efforts. We also found that DOD integrates the strategies through the New Triad Issues Team, which is co-led by 3 components within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) in collaboration with other key DOD components with equities in the New Triad. The New Triad Issues Team analyzes New Triad initiatives, presents options to the Secretary of Defense to optimize funding in line with DOD priorities and identifies programmatic issues associated with New Triad programs and mission areas. The team's OSD components provide oversight on specific aspects of the New Triad long-term strategy by coordinating with the Joint Staff, the Military Services and other DOD elements, and in collaboration with the Department of Energy and the Intelligence Community. To support the New Triad Issues Team the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD (AT&L)), developed a tracking document that links top-level guidance with program outcomes, establishes objectives for the New Triad in the programming process, and supports research and development initiatives, arms control treaty issues, systems assessments, and acquisition decisions. This approach was recently used in the development of the President's Budget submission for fiscal year 2010 and to develop the longer-term investment plans in DOD's Program Objective Memorandum, as well as to guide DOD reallocatiion of funds for New Triad programs

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