National Defense:

Force Structure--Need for Greater Transparency for the Army's Grow the Force Initiative Funding Plan

GAO-08-354R: Published: Jan 18, 2008. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 2008.

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In January 2007, the Secretary of Defense announced an initiative to expand the Army from a total of 1,037,000 to 1,112,000 active and reserve soldiers by fiscal year 2013--an increase of 74,200 military personnel--in order to meet increasing strategic demands and to help reduce stress on the force. This planned expansion includes building six additional active modular brigade combat teams and additional modular support units, which will require a substantial increase in funding for personnel, equipment, and infrastructure. Currently, the Army estimates this expansion may require about $70 billion in increased funding through fiscal year 2013 and a significant amount in annual funding thereafter to sustain the expanded Army. The President's fiscal year 2008 budget request contained $7.7 billion for Department of the Army funding related to the Grow the Force initiative. During the course of our review of Army modularity as required by the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, we analyzed the $70.2 billion Grow the Force initiative funding plan. We are submitting this letter to Congressional staff at this time to provide the results of our analysis for Congressional consideration as Congressional committees evaluate DOD's fiscal year 2009 defense budget submission, which will request additional funding to grow the force. Specifically, we examined the supporting documentation and comprehensiveness of the $70.2 billion funding plan. We will issue a separate report in spring 2008 in response to the authorization act's requirement for GAO to report on the Army's transformation to the modular force in fiscal year 2008. We will also be reporting on the Army's planning and budgeting process for Grow the Force facilities.

The Army has not developed a transparent and comprehensive funding plan for its Grow the Force initiative that allows decision makers to understand the full magnitude of the funds needed and weigh competing defense priorities. First, the Army's Grow the Force funding plan lacks transparency because Army budget materials and other documentation do not indicate how the Army developed the cost estimates that served as the basis of its $70.2 billion funding plan to grow the force. Army budget officials told us that they had limited time to prepare the funding plan before the President submitted the budget in February 2007. However, according to best practices, cost estimates should be transparent, comprehensive, and easily replicated and updated to help ensure the validity of the estimate. Second, the Army's funding plan is not comprehensive and may be somewhat understated because some costs were excluded and some factors are still evolving that could potentially affect the Grow the Force funding plan. For example, the $70.2 billion funding plan did not include over $2.5 billion for health care and educational support assistance associated with increasing personnel levels. In addition, in October 2007 the Chief of Staff of the Army announced a plan to accelerate the Grow the Force implementation timelines for the active Army and Army National Guard from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2010, which could increase costs such as budgeting for the hiring of military and civilian personnel sooner than programmed. The Army has an opportunity to update its Grow the Force initiative funding plan to reflect a more transparent and comprehensive approach. Without more complete information, decision makers could have difficulty understanding the basis for any future estimates the Army submits and weighing competing priorities. We are recommending that the Secretary of Defense require the Army to (1) develop and provide Congress with an updated Grow the Force funding plan to support congressional oversight of the fiscal year 2009 budget submission, and (2) document the steps and sources of information used to develop an updated funding plan. DOD generally agreed with these recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of January, 2009 DoD did not take any additional action and therefore the OIG DOD planned to close Recommendation 1. In December, 2008 the Department provided the Army's end-strength growth stationing plan to the Congress. This, in conjunction with the Army's FY2008 Annual Report on Army Progress, submitted in accordance with section 323 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007, the Army Campaign Plan, and revised funding estimates will frame the Grow the Army force structure, implementation timelines, and funding plan. The DOD concurred with GAO recommendation and said the Stationing Plan to Congress, Annual Report on Army Progress, Army Campaign Plan, and revised funding estimates will frame the Grow the Force structure, implementation timelines, and funding plan. We analyzed these documents and found that they did not provide (1) key assumptions, (2) key factors that could affect the Grow the Force funding plan, and (3) a clear definition of costs that were excluded from the estimate.

    Recommendation: To support congressional oversight of the Army's Grow the Force initiative and DOD's upcoming fiscal year 2009 budget request, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to provide Congress with additional information on the Army's Grow the Force initiative at the earliest possible date, but not later than March 30, 2008. This information should include the following: the force structure to be created by this initiative and associated implementation timelines; a revised Grow the Force funding plan; and the cost estimating methodology used to develop the Grow the Force funding plan, including (1) key assumptions, (2) key factors that could affect the Grow the Force funding plan, and (3) a clear definition of costs that were excluded from the estimate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The DOD concurred with GAO recommendation and said the Army will identify requirements and funding associated with the Grow the Force plan in the FY 2010/2011 Defense Budget and preparations of the FY 2010-2015 FYDP. Although the Army's year-to-year equipping, staffing, and facilities plans are not discretely segregated in the budget by initiatives such as the Army's Grow the Force, the Army said it would identify requirements and funding associated with the Grow the Army plan in the development of the FY 2010/2011 Defense Budget and preparations of the FY 2010-2015 Future Years Defense Program. We analyzed the documents DOD indicated would provide transparency and found that these documents did not provide a transparent audit trail including documentation of the steps used to develop the Grow the Force funding plan.

    Recommendation: To support congressional oversight of the Army's Grow the Force initiative and DOD's upcoming fiscal year 2009 budget request, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to maintain a transparent audit trail including documentation of the steps used to develop the Grow the Force funding plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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