Changes to Stryker Vehicle Maintenance Support Should Identify Strategies for Addressing Implementation Challenges
GAO-06-928R: Published: Sep 5, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2006.
As part of the Army's ongoing transformation efforts, in October 1999 the Army announced the Stryker brigade concept. The Stryker brigade is a unit designed to provide the Army with a rapidly deployable force that is capable of operating against the full spectrum of military threats. To meet the Army's requirements for being rapidly deployable and combat capable, the Stryker brigade relies on new sustainment concepts, such as minimizing the number of personnel and spare parts within the brigade and reaching back to assets outside the brigade for support, which are not found in other existing Army brigades. In a span of 6 years, the Army announced its intention to create a new brigade, chose a vehicle, tested the operational concept, and deployed three brigades in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Army is also sending one Stryker brigade for a second rotation to Iraq and is developing four additional Stryker brigades. To support the accelerated development and deployment timeline, the Army relied on contractors to support some equipment within the Stryker brigade, such as the Stryker vehicle and computer and communication systems. The largest group of contractor support within the brigade focuses on the Stryker vehicle, and the duties of those contractor personnel include conducting maintenance on the Stryker vehicle and managing the Stryker-specific supply chain. An Army official from the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology stated that at the time the first brigade deployed, the Army did not have the institutional capacity to train soldiers on conducting Stryker vehicle maintenance, and it faced an immediate need for maintenance personnel to support the deployment. This official also stated that the Army has since developed the institutional capacity to train soldiers to conduct Stryker vehicle maintenance. On November 1, 2005, the Army directed changes to Stryker vehicle support. One of these planned changes is to replace the Stryker vehicle maintenance contractor personnel within the brigade with soldiers. Army officials stated that the Army's general preference is to use soldiers instead of contractor personnel, and the specific rationale for making this change is to increase the flexibility of the Stryker brigade to perform in different combat missions. The Army expects to begin implementing this change by fiscal year 2008. We initiated this work under the statutory authority of the Comptroller General to conduct evaluations on his own initiative and are providing this report to Congress because of its' committees' oversight responsibility. We reviewed issues related to implementing the Army's planned change to use soldiers, rather than contractors, to conduct maintenance on the Stryker vehicle and specifically assessed the extent to which the Army's planned change will achieve the desired outcome when implemented.
The Army's change from contractor personnel to soldiers conducting maintenance on the Stryker vehicle may not fully achieve its intended outcome of increasing the brigade's flexibility to perform in different types of combat operations. We identified three potential challenges that may affect the Army's ability to achieve its intended outcome. First, personnel challenges may affect implementation of the planned change. Since vehicle maintenance contractors focus solely on the Stryker vehicle while soldiers perform a variety of tasks in addition to maintenance, the Army's plan replaces the existing 45 Stryker vehicle maintenance contractor personnel with 71 soldiers. Accordingly, to implement its plan, the Army must annually recruit or retain 497 additional soldiers with specific military specialties to support all seven Stryker brigades. As we have previously reported, some of these specialties have been consistently underfilled. The Army also may experience difficulties in sustaining soldier skills and knowledge on Stryker vehicle maintenance, due to the limited number of Stryker brigades combined with regularly scheduled transfers of soldiers among units. However, the Army's plan does not include strategies to (1) enable it to recruit and retain the soldiers necessary to implement this change or (2) sustain soldier skills and knowledge on Stryker vehicle maintenance. Second, the Army's plan increases the size of the brigade, and transporting the additional personnel and their associated equipment may exacerbate the existing difficulties in meeting deployment timelines that we have previously reported. Deploying the Stryker brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours is a component of the Stryker brigade's flexibility. However, the Army's plan does not address the effect of the increased logistical footprint on the brigade's ability to deploy within 96 hours. Finally, since the Stryker brigade was designed with a limited ability to perform major combat operations, achieving the Army's desired flexibility requires the Stryker brigade to receive additional sustainment support from Army units external to the brigade in order for it to perform a major combat operation. However, the Army has not addressed this support in its planned change. Until the Army addresses all of these challenges as part of its planned change, it may not achieve its intended outcome of increasing the Stryker brigade's flexibility to perform in different types of combat operations.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Not Implemented
Comments: DOD partially concurred with these recommendations, but went on to say that their existing policies would address our recommendations. Consequently, DOD concluded that no additional directions were required. On December 13, 2006, the DOD IG officially closed the recommendation. In attempting to follow up on this recommendation in 2010, we were unable to confirm to what extent the Army has (1) transitioned from contractor-based logistics to soldier maintenance or (2)addressed the recruiting, retention, logistical footprint, and operational issues we identified.
Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and include, as part of the Army's planning process for changes to Stryker vehicle support, (1) strategies to enable the Army to recruit and retain the additional soldiers needed to implement the changes, in light of existing personnel challenges; (2) strategies to sustain Army skills and knowledge on Stryker vehicle maintenance, given the limited number of Stryker brigades; (3) an assessment of the effects of an increased logistical footprint, such as the need for additional airlift, on the brigade's deployment timeline; and (4) plans to ensure the Stryker brigade can receive additional sustainment support so that the brigade can participate in major combat operations.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense