Force Structure:

The Army Needs a Results-Oriented Plan to Equip and Staff Modular Forces and a Thorough Assessment of Their Capabilities

GAO-09-131: Published: Nov 14, 2008. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2008.

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Amid ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army embarked in 2004 on a plan to create a modular, brigade-based force that would be equally capable as its divisional predecessor in part because it would have advanced equipment and specialized personnel. GAO has previously reported that restructuring and rebuilding the Army will require billions of dollars for equipment and take years to complete. For this report, GAO assessed the extent to which the Army has (1) developed a plan to link funding with results and (2) evaluated its modular force designs. GAO analyzed Army equipment and personnel data, key Army reports, planning documents, performance metrics, testing plans, and funding requests. GAO also visited Army Training and Doctrine Command, including selected Army proponents and schools; Army Reserve Command; and the National Guard Bureau.

The Army will have established over 80 percent of its modular units by the end of 2008 but does not have a results-oriented plan with clear milestones in place to guide efforts to equip and staff those new units. The Army has been focused on equipping and staffing units to support ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, the equipment and personnel level of non-deployed units has been declining. The Army now anticipates that modular units will be equipped and staffed in 2019--more than a decade away--but has provided few details about what to expect in the interim. And while the Army projects that it will have enough equipment and personnel in the aggregate, its projections rely on uncertain assumptions related to restoring equipment used in current operations, as well as meeting recruiting and retention goals while simultaneously expanding the Army. Further, GAO's detailed analysis of Army data shows that the Army could face shortfalls of certain modern equipment. Such items are important because the success of the modular design rests in part on obtaining key enablers needed for modular units to function as planned, such as equipment to provide enhanced awareness of the battlefield. GAO has previously reported that the Army lacks a funding plan that includes interim measures for equipping and staffing the modular force, making it difficult to evaluate progress. Without a plan for equipment and staffing that links funding with results and provides milestones, the Army cannot assure decision makers when modular units will have the required equipment and staff in place to restore readiness. Finally, without this plan the Army risks cost growth and further timeline slippage in its efforts to transform to a more modular and capable force. The Army uses several approaches in testing unit designs and capabilities, but these efforts have not yielded a comprehensive assessment of modular forces. Testing the force is intended to determine whether modular units are capable of performing missions across the full spectrum of conflict. The Army has focused its testing efforts on combat units conducting ongoing counterinsurgency operations. However, gaps in the Army's testing could affect its forces' ability to deliver needed capabilities. First, the Army has not fully assessed the effectiveness of its support units because the doctrine that would define how modular support units will train, be sustained, and support the fight has not been completed. This doctrine provides a benchmark to measure the effectiveness of support units. Further, the Army has not assigned a focal point the responsibility for integrating assessments across activities, such as equipping and training. Second, the Army tested the capability of modular designs primarily unconstrained by resources, not at the level of personnel and equipment that the Army plans to provide units. Lacking an analysis of the capabilities of the modular force at levels that it plans to have, the Army will not be in a position to realistically assess whether the capabilities that it is fielding can perform mission requirements.

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: Congress may wish to consider amending section 323 of Public Law 109-364 to require the Army to include in its statutorily required report on modularity a results-oriented plan that provides (1) goals for on-hand equipment and personnel levels at the end of each fiscal year; (2) projected on-hand equipment and personnel levels at the end of each year, including planned annual investments and quantities of equipment expected to be procured or repaired, as well as key assumptions underlying the Army's plans; and (3) an assessment of interim progress toward meeting overall Army requirements and the risks associated with any shortfalls.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, Congress amended section 332 of Public Law 109-364 to require the Army to report detailed information on its plan to staff and equip modular forces, especially capabilities it identified as critical to modular forces' mission success. Because the new reporting requirement clarifies for the Department of Defense more specifically what information Congress needs, this change will put Congress in a better position to conduct oversight of Army modularity plans for investing its resources and when the Army expects to achieve its manning and staffing goals.

    Matter: To ensure that Congress is kept informed about the progress in implementing modular designs across the Army's operating forces and the capabilities of the modular force and associated risks from personnel and equipment shortfalls, Congress may wish to consider revising section 323 Public Law 109-364 to require the Army to report on the status of its transition to modularity to include assessments of (1)the status of development of doctrine for how support forces will train, be sustained, and fight, (2) capabilities of modular units with expected personnel and equipment and risks associated with any shortfalls against required resources.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, Congress amended section 332 of Public Law 109-364 to require the Army to report detailed information on its plans to staff and equip modular forces, especially capabilities it identified as critical to Army modular forces' mission success. Because the new reporting requirement clarifies for the Department of Defense more specifically what information Congress needs, this change will put Congress in a better position to conduct oversight of Army modularity plans for investing its resources and when the Army expects to achieve its manning and staffing goals.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To enhance the Army's efforts to comprehensively assess modular designs the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to assess the capabilities of the modular force based on the amount and type of authorized equipment and personnel to identify capability shortfalls between authorized and design levels and take steps to revise authorized levels where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army partially agreed with our recommendation to assess the capabilities of the modular force based on the amount and type of authorized equipment and personnel in order to identify capability shortfalls between authorized and design levels and to revise authorized levels where appropriate. In its comments, DOD stated that the Army assesses the capabilities of the force in many ways and that modular brigades are assessed based on the missions assigned and the ability to accomplish these missions given personnel, training, and equipment available. The Army did not agree that additional direction was needed. In the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011 (P.L.109-364, sec. 322), Congress required the Army to report on its assessment of modular force capability. In its Fiscal year 2012 report, the Army cited lessons learned that have precipitated modularity changes in the areas of equipment, doctrine, and training related to modular force capabilities. In addition, it reported ongoing efforts to support the development of modular forces, including levering all available resource, new production, reset, and equipment redistribution to meet deployed and deploying unit requirements and achieved a fully equipped force. Although the Army did not complete a review at the time of our report, the Army has continued to refine the modular brigades' organizational design and equipment needs to identify shortfalls and mitigate risks, addressing the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enhance the Army's efforts to comprehensively assess modular designs the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to establish an organizational focal point to ensure that integrated assessments of modular support units' designs are performed across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities domains.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense agreed with the recommendation indicating that that the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army is the focal point for all Army organization, integration, decision-making, and execution of the spectrum of activities encompassing requirements definition, force development and integration, force structuring, combat development, training development, resourcing and prioritization has not taken the recommended action. However, our recommendation was not directed toward the responsibilities of senior Army leadership. Rather, our recommendation focused more narrowly on the need to address the lack of integrated assessments for support units. The Army did not not take the recommended action.

    Recommendation: To enhance the Army's efforts to comprehensively assess modular designs the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop a plan, including timelines, for completing doctrine for modular support forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has completed several initiatives and studies to examine the modular force and, according to its reports to Congress, the results of assessments of mular force capabilities, including lessons learned from existing modular units have driven modifications to modular designs, equipment, doctrine, and training. With lessons learned, new defense strategy, and budget realities, the Army plans to continue to asses the optimal modular design.

    Recommendation: To improve the Army's focus on the relationship between investments and results and the completeness of the information that the Army provides Congress, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and report to Congress a results-oriented plan that provides detailed information on the Army's progress in providing the modular force with key equipment and personnel enablers. The plan should show actual status and planned milestones through 2019 for each type of key equipment and personnel, including (1) goals for on-hand equipment and personnel levels at the end of each fiscal year; (2) projected on-hand equipment and personnel levels at the end of each fiscal year, including planned annual investments and quantities of equipment expected to be procured or repaired as well as key assumptions underlying the Army's plans; and (3) an assessment of interim progress toward meeting overall Army requirements and the risks associated with any shortfalls.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense included information about its progress in equipping the modular force in its 2011 and 2012 reports to Congress as required under Public Law 109-364.

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