Reserve Forces:

Actions Needed to Identify National Guard Domestic Equipment Requirements and Readiness

GAO-07-60: Published: Jan 26, 2007. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 2007.

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The high use of the National Guard for federal overseas missions has reduced equipment available for its state-led domestic missions, at the same time it faces an expanded array of threats at home. The massive state-led, federally funded response to Hurricane Katrina illustrates the Guard's important role in responding to the effects of large-scale, multistate events as well as the difficulty of working with multiple state and federal agencies. To address congressional interest in the Guard's domestic preparedness, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) the Guard's domestic equipment requirements have been identified, (2) the Department of Defense (DOD) measures and reports to Congress the equipment readiness of non-deployed Guard forces for domestic missions, and (3) DOD actions address the Guard's domestic equipping challenges. GAO examined the National Guard's plans and equipment status and included case studies in California, Florida, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

The types and quantities of equipment the National Guard needs to respond to large-scale terrorist events and natural disasters have not been fully identified because the multiple federal and state agencies that would have roles in responding to such events have not completed and integrated their plans. The Homeland Security Council has developed 15 catastrophic scenarios to guide federal and state governments in planning their response activities. While DOD is responsible for equipping the Guard for its federal missions and states plan for the National Guard's activities within their borders, neither is comprehensively planning for the Guard's role in responding to events like the national planning scenarios that may involve more than one state and be federally funded. Such planning has not been completed primarily because there is no formal mechanism for facilitating planning for the Guard's role in large-scale events. As a liaison between the Army, the Air Force, and the states, the National Guard Bureau is well positioned to facilitate state planning for National Guard forces. The bureau has facilitated some limited interstate planning for multistate events, although neither its charter nor its civil support regulation identifies this activity as its responsibility. Until the bureau's charter and its civil support regulation are revised to define its role in facilitating state planning for multistate events, such planning for the National Guard's role in these events may remain incomplete, and the National Guard may not be prepared to respond as efficiently and effectively as possible. DOD does not routinely measure or report to Congress the equipment readiness of nondeployed National Guard forces for domestic missions. DOD's legacy readiness reporting system and its annual National Guard equipping report to Congress address warfighting readiness but do not address the Guard's domestic missions. While DOD has recognized the need for greater visibility over the Guard's domestic capabilities, its process and measures for assessing the Guard's domestic readiness have not yet been fully defined. Until DOD reaches agreement on a specific approach for measuring readiness for domestic missions and requirements are defined, it will remain unclear whether the Guard is equipped to respond effectively to the consequences of a large-scale terrorist attack or natural disaster. DOD is taking some actions to address National Guard equipment challenges but the extent to which these actions will improve the Guard's domestic capabilities is uncertain because DOD has not finalized specific plans to implement and fund several initiatives. Some officials in case study states expressed concerns about the adequacy of equipment for nondeployed units under current Army plans. For example, until the Army defines the types and amounts of equipment that nondeployed Army National Guard units can expect to retain on hand within the United States, National Guard officials in the states may be hampered in their ability to plan and train for responding to large-scale domestic events.

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

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: To ensure that it is kept informed of the National Guard's equipment status for its domestic missions, Congress may wish to consider revising the statutory requirement for the annual National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report to include an assessment of (1) the Guard's equipping preparedness to provide support to civil authorities, particularly for large-scale, multistate events; (2) the risks to those missions associated with any equipment shortfalls; and (3) mitigation strategies and investment priorities. Further, to provide information on what equipment will be available for the National Guard's domestic missions under the Army's force generation model, Congress may wish to consider requiring the department to include in the 2009 National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report a plan and funding strategy for providing baseline equipment sets to nondeployed Army National Guard units.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress took action to address GAO's concerns about the National Guard's equipment and readiness for homeland security missions when it revised the statutory requirement for the annual National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181). The Act requires DOD to include an assessment of the National Guard's civil support preparedness, the risks associated with any shortfalls, and requirements and investment strategies to address the shortfall. The conference report accompanying the Act specifically referred to GAO's findings contained in report GAO-07-60 in its consideration of the provisions of the Act.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the statute prescribing the National Guard Bureau's charter to require language clarifying the National Guard Bureau's role in coordinating and facilitating interstate planning for the National Guard's use in large-scale, multistate events, such as those contained in the national planning scenarios, and require DOD to revise the National Guard Bureau's civil support regulation to reflect the clarification in the charter.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2008, Congress amended the statute prescribing the National Guard Bureau's charter to address planning responsibilities for certain National Guard missions with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181). Specifically, the act assigns the National Guard Bureau the function of assisting the Secretary of Defense in facilitating and coordinating with other federal agencies, state officials, and DOD commands for the use of National Guard personnel and resources for certain civil support missions.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to submit a report to Congress on DOD's plans for assessing and reporting on the readiness of National Guard units to perform domestic missions in response to natural disasters or terrorist events. This report should include DOD's progress to date in incorporating these missions into the Defense Readiness Reporting System; the specific missions for which National Guard units will report their readiness; and the standards, including any equipment measures, given to National Guard unit commanders to consider when making their readiness assessments for these missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress took action to address these concerns when it revised the statutory requirement for the annual National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181). The Act requires DOD to include an assessment of the National Guard's civil support preparedness, the risks associated with any shortfalls, and requirements and investment strategies to address the shortfall. The conference report accompanying the Act specifically referred to GAO's findings contained in report GAO-07-60 in its consideration of the provisions of the Act.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force to direct the Chief, National Guard Bureau, in coordination with DOD, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Pacific Command, the states, and other civilian authorities, to take actions to facilitate and coordinate interstate National Guard planning to identify the capabilities, including equipment, the National Guard would need to respond to large-scale, multistate events, consistent with the Homeland Security Council's national planning scenarios and state and federal plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: National Guard Bureau has taken some actions to identify capabilities needed for civil support missions and is coordinating with other stakeholders to facilitate planning.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force to direct the Chief, National Guard Bureau, to update the National Guard Bureau's 1996 civil support regulation to reflect the National Guard Bureau's role in coordinating and facilitating interstate planning for large-scale, multistate events. The regulation should also be updated to formalize procedures for coordination with organizations that have been established since the regulation was last updated, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, and U.S. Northern Command, as well as for the use of new planning tools like the National Response Plan and the Homeland Security Council's national planning scenarios.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2008, the Department of Defense issued Directive 5105.77 which updated the National Guard Bureau charter, as recommended. The Directive clarified the roles and responsibility of the National Guard Bureau in regard to coordinating with federal and state agencies in support of military operations, overseas and domestic. The new directive meets the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force to add clarifying language to the National Guard Bureau's charter to clearly define its roles in coordinating and facilitating interstate planning for the National Guard's use in large-scale, multistate events, such as those contained in the national planning scenarios, and monitoring the Guard's status to perform these missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Congress directed changes to the National Guard Bureau's charter in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that meet the intent of the recommendation. The Department of Defense issues Directive 5105.77 in May 21, 2008, which superseded the 2008 charter. The Directive clarified the National Guard's roles and responsibilities in military operations, overseas and domestically.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and submit to Congress a plan and funding strategy for resourcing nondeployed Army National Guard baseline equipment sets. Specifically, the plan should include a timeline for defining the requirements of nondeployed Army National Guard baseline equipment sets, the analytical basis and domestic mission requirements used to determine the equipment required in the baseline set, readiness standards and measures that will be used to track the status of the baseline equipment sets, and the Army's plan for funding and filling baseline equipment sets.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Army has not yet developed a detailed plan for equipping Army National Guard forces under their new modular configuration. The Army's 2010 Equipping Strategy noted that National Guard forces would be provided equipment for their domestic missions, but it has not defined readiness standards and measure to track domestic mission readiness.

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