Defense Infrastructure:

DOD Needs to Improve Oversight of Relocatable Facilities and Develop a Strategy for Managing Their Use across the Military Services

GAO-09-585: Published: Jun 12, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 2009.

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The concurrent implementation of several major Department of Defense (DOD) force structure and infrastructure initiatives has stressed the ability of traditional military construction to provide enough permanent living and working space for servicemembers and other DOD personnel. As a result, the services are using some movable--or relocatable--facilities as barracks, administrative offices, medical facilities, dining halls, and equipment maintenance facilities to meet short-term needs. In Senate Report 110-77, the Senate Committee on Armed Services directed GAO to review the subject. This report assesses the extent to which (1) the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is providing oversight of the services' use of relocatable facilities to meet physical infrastructure needs, and (2) DOD has a strategy for managing such facilities. GAO assessed data reported to OSD on relocatable use and cost as well as visited seven defense installations selected from those identified as having a sizeable number of relocatable facilities.

Although DOD considers the use of relocatable facilities a temporary measure to meet short-term physical infrastructure needs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is not providing effective oversight of the number or cost of its relocatable facilities. OSD officials told GAO in March 2008 that they did not have information about how many relocatable facilities were being used, how many defense installations had them, or how much it has cost to acquire them. Subsequently, the military services reported to OSD that they have acquired over 4,000 relocatable facilities at an estimated cost of about $1.5 billion over a 5-year period. However, GAO's assessment of these data showed that the data were inaccurate and incomplete. At six of the seven installations visited, GAO found discrepancies between the number of relocatable facilities located on those installations and the numbers that the services had reported to OSD. For instance, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, installation officials told GAO the installation had about 170 relocatable facilities, which is about 80 more than the Marine Corps headquarters reported to OSD. Such discrepancies occurred in part because OSD has not provided the services with a clear definition of relocatable facilities. In addition, OSD lacks a mechanism for collecting and maintaining reliable data on these facilities. A clear, ongoing requirement for OSD to collect and maintain consistent data on relocatable facilities would better enable it to manage the use of these facilities to provide working and living space for military personnel. OSD has not developed a comprehensive strategy for managing relocatable facilities departmentwide. Although the military services plan to replace many of their relocatable facilities with permanent construction, some officials GAO spoke with expressed skepticism that the planned replacement funds will become available. In addition, GAO found that these facilities at many installations have been in use longer than the 3 years DOD's guidance states it normally expects. Furthermore, some Army officials told GAO that due to several force structure and infrastructure initiatives, it expects that the influx of more military personnel at some installations could exacerbate the shortage of facilities, which could mean more relocatable facilities might be needed. Meanwhile, some DOD installations may be planning to acquire new relocatable facilities at market cost at the same time that other installations are disposing of them. Although the Army is moving in the direction of centralizing its management of relocatable facilities, none of the other military service headquarters told GAO they have initiated similar efforts. Because OSD does not have a comprehensive DOD-wide strategy for managing the use of relocatable facilities--including the transfer of relocatables from one location to another--the services could unnecessarily spend DOD funds by simultaneously acquiring new facilities at some locations while auctioning off or incurring costs to store or demolish similar facilities at other locations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2009, we found that OSD did not have adequate oversight and management over the military services' use of relocatable facilities to meet its physical infrastructure shortages and that OSD data for relocatable facilities was inaccurate and incomplete because OSD had not provided the services with a clear definition of relocatable facilities. We recommended that OSD improve its oversight and management of the military services' use of relocatable facilities by clarifying OSD guidance on the definition of relocatable facilities. On July 5, 2012, an OSD official confirmed that its DOD Instruction on relocatable facilities is complete, ready for publication in the next couple of weeks, and provides an updated definition of relocatable facilities. As a result, the services have a clear definition of relocatable facilities, which should improve OSD's oversight and management to be able to reliability determine the extent to which the services are relying on relocatable facilities to meet shortages in needed facilities.

    Recommendation: To improve OSD's oversight and management of the military services' use of relocatable facilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to clarify its guidance on the definition of relocatable facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2009, we found that OSD did not fully know the number of relocatable facilities and the associated cost to acquire these facilities and recommended that DOD develop a mechanism for collecting and maintaining complete and reliable data on the number of relocatable facilities used by the military services and on the costs of acquiring them. On July 5, 2012, an OSD official confirmed that they have taken action to implement our recommendation in that the updated DOD Instruction 4165.56 on relocatable facilities now requires all DOD components, which includes the military services, to report inventory of relocatable facilities on a standard spreadsheet at the end of each fiscal year to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The standard spreadsheet for the relocatable facilities inventory report is viewed as the mechanism for collecting data on the number and costs of these relocatable facilities. The inventory report includes, among other collected data, the installation where located, year acquired, whether the relocatable was purchased or leased, size, site preparation costs, and replacement or disposal plan. As a result, this DOD-required standard spreadsheet for the relocatable facilities inventory report ensures consistent reporting across the DOD components, which includes the military services, and meets the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve OSD's oversight and management of the military services' use of relocatable facilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to develop a mechanism for collecting and maintaining complete and reliable data on the number of relocatable facilities used by the military services and on the costs of acquiring them once OSD clarifies the guidance on the definition of relocatable facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2009, we found that OSD does not have a strategy to manage the use, disposal, and redistribution of relocatable facilities across all the services, including projected costs. Without a strategy that includes provisions for the disposal of relocatable facilities, including projected costs, some relocatable facilities could remain in place for years to come including the transfer of relocatables from one location to another. For example, a military service could unnecessarily spend funds by simultaneously acquiring new facilities while another military service is incurring costs to store or demolish similar facilities. On July 5, 2012, an OSD official confirmed that its updated DOD Instruction 4165.56 on relocatable facilities requires the military services to report inventory of relocatable facilities on a standard spreadsheet at the end of each fiscal year to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. As a result, according to the OSD official, the information collected in this annual report will help OSD to more effectively manage the inventory of relocatable facilities. For example, the annual inventory report will account for the relocatable facilities as real property or personal property, which is important for determining the existing guidance for redistributing and disposing those types of property. In addition, the OSD official noted that the military services' annual inventory report for relocatable facilities supports OSD's efforts to ensure that it uses those facilities for the intended purpose and timeframe.

    Recommendation: To improve OSD's oversight and management of the military services' use of relocatable facilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to develop and implement a strategy to help effectively manage the use, disposal, and redistribution of relocatable facilities across all the services when redistribution is appropriate, including projected costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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