Defense Infrastructure:

DOD Needs to Periodically Review Support Standards and Costs at Joint Bases and Better Inform Congress of Facility Sustainment Funding Uses

GAO-09-336: Published: Mar 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 2009.

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The 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended that the Department of Defense (DOD) establish 12 joint bases by consolidating the management and support of 26 separate installations, potentially saving $2.3 billion over 20 years. In response to a direction from the House Armed Services Committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, GAO evaluated DOD's (1) efforts and expected costs to deliver installation support at joint bases and (2) funding for facility sustainment, which includes the maintenance and repair activities necessary to keep facilities in good working order, at all installations. GAO compared new support standards with the current support levels, visited nine installations that will become four joint bases, and compared facility sustainment funding levels with requirements and goals.

DOD has made a comprehensive effort to ensure consistent delivery of installation support at the planned joint bases, but the cost of installation support is expected to increase rather than decrease as forecasted by the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. In January 2008, DOD began issuing joint base implementation guidance that for the first time established a set of common definitions and standards for installation support. The guidance defined 47 installation support areas (e.g., airfield operations, grounds maintenance, custodial services, and child and youth programs) and provided 267 standards to define the expected level of service in each area. DOD officials stated that the standards represented the service levels needed to meet mission and personnel requirements in view of DOD policies and guidance, commercial standards, other federal agency guidance, or in some cases, military judgment. However, contrary to the expectations of the commission, for two primary reasons installation support costs at the joint bases are expected to increase above the cost of support provided by the separate installations before consolidation. First, DOD has required the joint bases to deliver installation support in accordance with the new standards even though the military services have not previously funded installation support in the amounts needed to meet each of the standards. GAO's comparison of 40 selected standards to the service levels currently provided at the nine installations it visited showed that on average service levels would have to increase to meet the standards in about 27 percent of the areas compared. Second, in some instances the services' approach to implementing joint basing will result in additional administrative costs and the loss of some existing installation support efficiencies. Although DOD officials stated that the increased support costs at the joint bases might be at least partially offset over time as experience is gained and new efficiencies are identified and adopted, it is unclear whether joint basing will result in actual savings. The military services have not budgeted and spent sufficient funds to meet their facility sustainment requirements and goals and prevent facility deterioration at the installation level. Citing other budget priorities as the reason, the military services did not budget funds to meet about $2.3 billion (9 percent) of their total facility sustainment requirements during fiscal years 2005 through 2008 and, according to DOD, needed sustainment work that is not performed may eventually result in damaged facilities, shortened facility service lives, and increased future costs for facility restoration. The services have further exacerbated the sustainment funding issue by using some budgeted sustainment funds for other purposes. During fiscal years 2006 through 2008, the military services used about $2.6 billion (14 percent) of the funds budgeted for sustainment for other purposes, primarily to pay for unfunded facility restoration and modernization projects. Although service officials stated that these projects were needed, the consequence was that sustainment requirements were not met. During visits to nine installations, GAO found backlogs of deferred sustainment needs and some facilities that were not in good condition because funds were not available to pay for all needed sustainment work.

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 address the expected increased installation support costs from joint basing implementation and the use of budgeted facility sustainment funds for purposes other than sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to complete a detailed analysis of the estimated installation support costs from the initial joint bases and report the results of the analysis to the Congress in the department's documents supporting the administration's annual budget submission or another document deemed appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially agreed with our recommendation to complete a detailed analysis of the estimated installation support costs from the initial joint bases and report the results of the analysis to the Congress. In July 2011, DOD stated that it has established procedures for collecting installation support costs at the 12 joint bases and that by using a cost and performance visibility framework, the joint bases report cost and manpower annually six weeks after the end of the fiscal year. DOD stated that the information is analyzed in conjunction with performance data, which is reported quarterly, to get an overall assessment of how well the standards for installation support are being met, and the costs associated with those standards. Also, DOD stated that it will continue to respond to requests for information from Congress with regard to the joint basing initiative. We believe that DOD's actions met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To address the expected increased installation support costs from joint basing implementation and the use of budgeted facility sustainment funds for purposes other than sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to periodically review administrative costs as joint basing is implemented to minimize any additional costs and prevent the loss of existing installation support efficiencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially agreed with our recommendation to periodically review administrative costs as joint basing is implemented to minimize any additional costs and prevent the loss of existing installation support efficiencies. DOD stated that it had already established a process to periodically review joint basing costs as part of DOD's planning, program, budget and execution system and that the joint base memorandum of agreement template requires periodic reviews of mission and resource impacts. Thus, DOD stated that further action to implement the recommendation was not necessary. DOD's response to our recommendation describes the processes DOD intends to use to review costs after the joint bases have been implemented. However, our recommendation calls for reviewing costs during the joint base implementation process--not only after implementation has been completed. As illustrated by the examples cited in this report, the opportunity to reduce some joint base administrative costs and prevent the loss of existing installation support efficiencies exists during the time that the individual installations are working out the details on how to combine into a joint base. Thus, we continue to believe that DOD needs to take additional steps to perform periodic reviews to try to avoid losing existing efficiencies during the joint base implementation process and to help ensure that each joint base is established as economically and efficiently as possible. Because DOD plans no further action on this recommendation, we have closed the recommendation as not implemented.

    Recommendation: To address the expected increased installation support costs from joint basing implementation and the use of budgeted facility sustainment funds for purposes other than sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to periodically review the installation support standards as experience is gained with delivering installation support at the joint bases and make adjustments, if needed, to ensure that each standard reflects the level of service necessary to meet installation requirements as economically as possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially agreed with our recommendation to periodically review the installation support standards and make adjustments, if needed, to ensure that each standard reflects the level of service necessary to meet requirements as economically as possible. In January 2011, DOD stated that it had taken several actions to implement our recommendation. Specifically, DOD stated that the department now reviews the standards annually on a regular schedule for appropriateness, applicability, and performance. Also, in addition to the annual review, the department implemented a cost and performance visibility framework under which the joint bases report how well the standards are being met. DOD stated that the reported information can assist in determining whether any adjustments need to be made to the standards. In view of DOD's actions, DOD has implemented our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To address the expected increased installation support costs from joint basing implementation and the use of budgeted facility sustainment funds for purposes other than sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to increase the attention given to facility sustainment spending by summarizing and reporting to the Congress the amount of budgeted sustainment funds spent on other purposes in the department's documents supporting the administration's annual budget submission or another document deemed appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially agreed with our recommendation to increase the attention given to facility sustainment spending by summarizing and reporting to the Congress the amount of budgeted sustainment funds spent on other purposes. DOD partially agreed with our recommendation and stated that it will collect and summarize the amount of budgeted sustainment funds spent on other purposes and that the information will be provided if the Congress requests it. In July 2011, DOD stated that the department monitors the budgeting and execution of facilities sustainment in order to determine how much of the funding budgeted for sustainment is diverted to other purposes. DOD also stated that the department was currently collecting information on the sustainment tasks that are deferred in a given year at a sampling of installations across DOD and that the information will help inform decision-making with regard to facilities sustainment funding. We believe that DOD's actions implement the intent of our recommendation.

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