Defense Management:

Fully Developed Management Framework Needed to Guide Air Force Future Total Force Efforts

GAO-06-232: Published: Jan 31, 2006. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 2006.

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The Air Force is in the process of transforming its force to meet today's new and emerging threats. Its "Future Total Force" concept is intended to maximize future capabilities by integrating its active, National Guard, and reserve components to a greater degree. While the Air Force was making force structure decisions and developing its 20-year plan, the Air National Guard embarked on its own "Vanguard" transformation initiative to ensure its role and relevance in the new Air Force. This report discusses (1) the processes and events that surrounded the Air Force's development of its 20-year force structure plan, including the involvement of key stakeholders and the development of the Guard's Vanguard initiative, and (2) the extent to which the Air Force is utilizing key results-oriented management tools to guide its effort to identify new missions for the Air National Guard and integrate active and Guard forces as part of its Future Total Force effort.

The Air Force used an iterative process to develop its 20-year force structure plan with periodic review and oversight by senior-level Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force officials; however, stakeholders have different views on the extent to which the Air Force sought and addressed input from process participants. The plan included a reduction in the legacy fighter fleet--residing largely within the Air National Guard--and the acquisition of new aircraft such as the F/A-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. In late 2004, a departmentwide shift in funding priorities reduced the number of F/A-22 aircraft to be acquired and resulted in changes to the Air Force's plan. Perspectives on how well this process worked vary depending on the role and level of involvement of each organization. For example, Air Force Air Staff officials viewed the process as fully participatory and noted that the Air National Guard Bureau and the Air Force's major commands had direct representation on the force structure development team. In contrast, Air National Guard officials expressed concerns about their ability to influence decisions and 7 of the 10 adjutants general whom GAO contacted believed that they did not have sufficient opportunity to influence the decisions. Because documentation of the proceedings of key meetings was limited, GAO was unable to evaluate the extent to which stakeholders influenced the process. During the same period, the Air National Guard began a separate effort--the Vanguard Engagement Strategy--to solicit input from the states on future roles and missions for the Guard and to prepare its units to respond to anticipated force structure reductions. The Air Force has taken steps to identify new missions for the Air National Guard and test ways to integrate the active, Guard, and reserve components as part of its Future Total Force transformation, but it has not fully developed a management framework to guide its efforts or a plan to evaluate its progress. In December 2004, the Air Force announced initiatives for six states to test its transformation concepts. In March 2005, the Air Force established a new directorate to guide implementation of the Future Total Force concept. The new directorate has taken steps to identify new missions and implement new constructs to integrate components. As GAO has previously reported, organizations undergoing transformation increase their likelihood of success if they adopt a results-oriented management framework to guide their efforts. Although the directorate has drafted a strategic plan that directorate officials said includes such tools, as of November 2005, the plan had not been approved and there is no requirement that it be used to guide implementation efforts. Moreover, while the Air Force has some metrics to use in evaluating its test initiatives, it has not developed a comprehensive evaluation plan to measure results. By moving ahead to implement the Future Total Force concept without such a framework and evaluation plan, the Air Force may be unable to successfully transform its culture, evaluate initiatives and program results, determine the most cost effective mix of active and reserve forces, and ensure transparency of the implementation process.

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 establish a results-oriented management framework that can be used to guide the implementation of the Future Total Force transformation process, measure effectiveness and overall results, and clearly communicate plans for implementing and evaluating the concept to all key stakeholders and decision makers within the Air Force and DOD, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the Future Total Force Directorate to fully develop a comprehensive, results-oriented management framework to guide the Future Total Force transformation effort and measure overall results. Specifically, the management framework should include a strategic plan that contains, but is not limited to long-term goals and objectives, strategies to be used to accomplish goals, performance goals, performance criteria for measuring progress, and evaluation and corrective action plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force Future Total Force Directorate has developed a strategic plan to guide the implementation of the Future Total Force transformation process which contains many of the key management tools we described in our report.

    Recommendation: To establish a results-oriented management framework that can be used to guide the implementation of the Future Total Force transformation process, measure effectiveness and overall results, and clearly communicate plans for implementing and evaluating the concept to all key stakeholders and decision makers within the Air Force and DOD, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to set a specific time frame to accelerate the approval of the Future Total Force Directorate's strategic plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, the Air Force accelerated finalizing its Future Total Force Strategic Plan and approved the plan on December 16, 2005.

    Recommendation: Further, to establish a clear understanding of the approach and mechanisms to be used to evaluate the Future Total Force initiatives to test new organizational constructs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to establish a stand-alone, comprehensive, and clearly articulated plan for evaluating the Future Total Force test initiatives to measure results, identify and apply lessons learned, and build on current efforts to increase the transparency of the process for Air Force and DOD decision makers and outside organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, the Air Force has taken two actions. In June 2006, it published Air Force Policy Directive 90-10 which established the policy for implementing initiatives integrating the Regular Air Force and the Air Reserve Components of the Air Force as part of the Total Force Integration concept (the new name of the Future Total Force). The policy directive directed the major commands to develop metrics for evaluating whether integration initiatives are creating the desired effects. Subsequently, in May 2007, the Air Force issued Air Force Instruction 90-1001, which outlines responsibilities for Total Force Integration. The instruction codifies the development of metrics and reinforces the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS) requirement to provide measures of a unit's capability to be reported a minimum of every 30 days. In addition, the Air Force instruction also tasked the units to track, at a minimum, crew ratios, dwell times, absorption rates, utilization rates, operational tempo, personnel tempo, quality of life indicators, and training success rates. These non-DRRS indicators are to be captured by the units and forwarded to their respective major commands and/or the National Guard Bureau for inclusion in the Total Force Integration Tracking Tool database. Additionally, the Air Force intends to continue to fine-tune the measures collected on integration initiatives as new initiatives are developed. GAO believes that these steps respond to the intent of our recommendation.

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