Warfighter Support:

Improvements to DOD's Urgent Needs Processes Would Enhance Oversight and Expedite Efforts to Meet Critical Warfighter Needs

GAO-10-460: Published: Apr 30, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2010.

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Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced rapidly changing threats to mission failure or loss of life, highlighting the Department of Defense's (DOD) need to develop and field new capabilities more quickly than its usual acquisition procedures allow. Since 2006, Congress has provided nearly $16 billion to counter improvised explosive devices alone. GAO and others have reported funding, organizational, acquisition, and oversight issues involving DOD's processes for meeting warfighters' urgent needs. The Senate Armed Services Committee asked GAO to determine 1) the extent to which DOD has a means to assess the effectiveness of its urgent needs processes, and 2) what challenges, if any, have affected the overall responsiveness of DOD's urgent needs processes. To conduct this review GAO looked at three urgent needs processes--joint, Army, and the Marine Corps processes--visited forces overseas that submit urgent needs requests and receive solutions, and conducted 23 case studies.

Although DOD has taken steps to create urgent needs processes that are more responsive to urgent warfighter requests than traditional acquisition procedures, DOD is unable to fully assess how well the processes address critical deficiencies or to measure the effectiveness of solutions fielded in the theater because it has not established an effective management framework for those processes. GAO found that DOD's guidance for its urgent needs processes is dispersed and outdated. Further, DOD guidance does not clearly define roles and responsibilities for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating all phases of those processes or incorporate all of the expedited acquisition authorities available to acquire joint urgent need solutions. Data systems for the processes lack comprehensive, reliable data for tracking overall results and do not have standards for collecting and managing data. In addition, the joint process does not include a formal method for feedback to inform joint leadership on the performance of solutions. In one case, a solution for a joint request was fielded for 18 months without meeting warfighter needs. In the absence of a management framework for its urgent needs processes, DOD lacks tools to fully assess how well its processes work, manage their performance, ensure efficient use of resources, and make decisions regarding the long-term sustainment of fielded capabilities. In conducting field work in Iraq as well as 23 case studies, GAO found several challenges that could hinder DOD's ability to rapidly respond to urgent warfighter needs. First, not all personnel involved in the initial development and review of urgent needs documentation receive adequate training. DOD policy states that deploying personnel should receive priority for training and be responsive to the needs of the combatant commander; however, officers responsible for drafting, submitting, and reviewing Army and joint urgent needs requests are not likely to receive such training. Hence, once in theater, they often face difficulties processing the large volume of requests, in a timely manner. Second, in 11 of 23 cases GAO studied, challenges obtaining funding were the primary factor that increased the amount of time needed to field solutions. Funding has not always been available for joint urgent needs in part because the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has not assigned primary responsibility for implementing the department's rapid acquisition authority. Congress provided OSD with that authority to meet urgent warfighter needs, but OSD has played a reactive rather than proactive role in making decisions about when to invoke it. In addition, DOD can reprogram funds appropriated for other purposes to meet urgent needs requests, but authority for determining when and how to reprogram funds has been delegated to the services and combatant commands. Prior GAO work has shown that strong leadership from OSD over resource control is critical, and midlevel agencies such as the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, which is responsible for facilitating urgent needs requests, including funding, cannot guide other agencies at a high enough level to promote effective interagency coordination. Finally, GAO found that attempts to meet urgent needs with immature or complex technologies can result in significant delays.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD updated several policy documents to help clearly define the roles and responsibilities of DOD components such as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military services, and other DOD components, and to identify accountability for all phases of the urgent needs process. For example, in August 2012, DOD issued a new directive, DODD 5000.71 "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs," which formally established the Warfighter Senior Integration Group and provided details on roles and responsibilities for responding to requests for urgent operational needs. In addition, Joint Chief of Staff Instruction 3170.01H, "Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System," issued in January 2012, directs an expedited review of urgent needs through the JCIDS. Further, the issuance of the interim DOD Instruction 5000.02 "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System" in November 2013 includes Enclosure 13 on the "Rapid Acquisition of Urgent Needs" which provides policy and procedures for acquisition programs to fulfill urgent needs and field capabilities in less than 2 years, and includes a provision for consideration of the technical maturity of the preferred solution(s).

    Recommendation: To improve the department's ability to fully assess how well the urgent needs processes are addressing critical warfighter deficiencies and to measure the effectiveness of solutions fielded in the theater, and to permanently establish the joint urgent needs process, and to improve consistency with federal internal control standards, the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commands, military services, and other DOD components, should, as necessary, clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military services, and other DOD components, as necessary, through the issuance of new or updated OSD and Joint Chiefs of Staff guidance, to identify who is accountable for implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all phases of the process--including applying the technological maturity criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD updated several policy documents to include rapid acquisition authority procedures available to officials responsible for meeting joint urgent needs requests. For example, in August 2012, DOD issued a new directive, DODD 5000.71 "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs," which formally established the Warfighter Senior Integration Group and provided details on roles and responsibilities for responding to requests for urgent operational needs. In addition, the issuance of the interim DOD Instruction 5000.02 "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System" includes Enclosure 13 on the "Rapid Acquisition of Urgent Needs" which provides policy and procedures for acquisition programs to fulfill urgent needs and field capabilities in less than 2 years.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's ability to fully assess how well the urgent needs processes are addressing critical warfighter deficiencies and to measure the effectiveness of solutions fielded in the theater, and to permanently establish the joint urgent needs process and to improve consistency with federal internal control standards, the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commands, military services, and other DOD components, should, as necessary, include rapid acquisition authority procedures available to officials responsible for meeting joint urgent need requests.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD's new policy developed to respond to warfighter's urgent needs defines the steps necessary to respond to urgent needs requests and responsibilities for overseeing those steps. DOD Directive 5000.71, "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs" from August 2012, states that the Warfighter Senior Integration Group (SIG), chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, oversees, prioritizes, and facilitates three steps to respond to an urgent operational need: validate the need, identify a valid solution, and rapidly executive the solution. The Director of the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC), as the executive secretary of the Warfighter SIG, is responsible for monitoring the progress and completion of actions to ensure rapid fielding of needed capabilities. Further, the Director is required to inform the Warfighter SIG of the status of the urgent operational need milestones: funding, contracting, delivery, performance, training, fielding, sustainment, and other issues affecting timely fulfillment. According to DOD's May 2013 Report to Congress on the Review of Acquisition Processes for Rapid Fielding of Capabilities in Response to Urgent Needs, the processes for tracking and documenting key process milestones such as funding, acquisition, fielding and assessment are accomplished through reports from several organizations. The status of urgent needs as well as other items of interest to the Warfighter SIG is maintained by the JRAC.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's ability to fully assess how well the urgent needs processes are addressing critical warfighter deficiencies and to measure the effectiveness of solutions fielded in the theater, and to permanently establish the joint urgent needs process and to improve consistency with federal internal control standards, the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commands, military services, and other DOD components, should, as necessary, develop and implement standards for accurately tracing and documenting key process milestones such as funding, acquisition, fielding, and assessment, and for updating data management systems to create activity reports to facilitate management review and external oversight of the process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD, providing feedback on a fielded solution in response to a joint urgent need now occurs in multiple ways. For example, according to DOD Directive 5000.71, "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs" from August 2012, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is directed to establish procedures for the combatant commands to assess the sufficiency of rapidly fielded solutions to mitigate urgent operational needs. In addition, the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) Manual from January 2012 states that for any rapidly fielded capability solution, the original requirement sponsor will generate an assessment of the capability solution within 90 calendar days of initial fielding to facilitate transition, sustainment, or alternate approaches, and provide feedback against the original capability requirements submitted in the urgent need. The assessment is placed into three categories: failure/limited success; success/limited duration; and success/enduring requirement. Further, according to DOD Instruction 5000.02, "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System" from November 2013, Enclosure 13, "Rapid Acquisition of Urgent Needs," the program manager and the DOD component will conduct a post-fielding assessment after deployment of the capability to obtain feedback from the user or other DOD components.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's ability to fully assess how well the urgent needs processes are addressing critical warfighter deficiencies and to measure the effectiveness of solutions fielded in the theater, and to permanently establish the joint urgent needs process and to improve consistency with federal internal control standards, the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commands, military services, and other DOD components, should, as necessary, develop an established, formal feedback mechanism or channel, for the military services to provide feedback to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC) on how well fielded solutions met urgent needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has issued the new, interim DOD Instruction 5000.02, "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System" that includes Enclosure 13 on the "Rapid Acquisition of Urgent Needs" to fulfill urgent needs and field capabilities in less than 2 years. The enclosure outlines the different types of urgent needs and the corresponding approval authorities, including the use of rapid acquisition authority. Further, the enclosure provides for flexibility, for example, by stating that a streamlined, highly tailored approach to acquisition for an urgent need consistent with the urgency of the need will be employed. In addition, in August 2012, DOD issued a new directive, DODD 5000.71 "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs," which assigned specific responsibilities to the Director of the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell such as making recommendations to the Secretary of Defense for the use of rapid acquisition authority.

    Recommendation: To better inform DOD personnel of the options for acquiring capabilities to meet warfighters' needs, the Secretary of Defense should amend DOD Directive 5000.01 and DOD Instruction 5000.02 to reflect that officials responsible for acquisition of urgently needed equipment may need to consider using joint urgent processes, including rapid acquisition authority.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD, the Department of the Army updated Army Regulation 71-9, "Warfighting Capabilities Determination," which partially addressed the recommendation. However, the Department of the Army has delayed issuance of an updated acquisition policy, Army Regulation 70-1, "Army Acquisition Policy," and any related procedural changes to the Army's urgent needs process in Army Regulation 71-9 until after the revised DOD Instruction 5000.02, "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System," is published. The Army's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, responsible for the Army's urgent needs processes contained in AR 71-9, is working in coordination with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology), which is responsible for AR 70-1, to codify their respective initiatives associated with institutionalizing rapid acquisition organizations, processes and procedures. According to DOD, the new instruction will include new or revised DOD guidance and policy on rapid acquisition that will affect the DOD components' equivalent policy documents as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3170-series documents. The Army Audit Agency reported in its August 2012 audit of the Army's rapid acquisition process that DOD was developing several policies that would affect the Army's processes to conduct rapid acquisition. According to the report, the agency reviewed DOD's draft policies, determined that the changes could directly affect the Army's rapid acquisition processes and organizations, and stated that the Army needs to consider the implications of the proposed changes when addressing the institutionalization of its rapid acquisition processes and organizations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary should direct the Secretary of the Army to amend the urgent needs process guidance in Army Regulation 71-9 to include distinct performance standards that distinguish how different types of urgent needs, such as nonstandard mission equipment shortages and new capabilities, should be processed, and to develop and implement standard operating procedures for headquarters officials to use when processing urgent needs requests.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the January 2012 Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) Manual, requires that the document sponsor for urgent operational needs must identify a primary and a secondary point of contact, which must have completed the appropriate level of Requirements Management Certification Training (RMCT). The manual outlines the required RMCT training and the different levels of training available and provided by the Defense Acquisition University. Further, according to the manual, members of the military services and DOD employees with authority to generate capability requirements for major defense acquisition programs may not participate in the requirements generation process unless the member or employee successfully completes a certification training program.

    Recommendation: To better address training challenges the department faces in preventing process delays and improving its ability to more quickly field solutions to the theater, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to update training procedures to include instruction for unit requirements officers regarding the development of joint and Army urgent need statements in order to ensure that these personnel are prepared to effectively draft urgent requirement documents upon arrival in theater.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD Directive 5000.71, "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs" from August 2012, states that the Director, Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, serves as the senior official within the Office of the Secretary of Defense with primary responsibility for making recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on the use of rapid acquisition authority. In addition, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics' November 22, 2013 memo, "Use of Secretary of Defense's Rapid Acquisition Authority," references DOD Directive 5000.71 as designating the Director, Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, with the responsibility for making recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on the use of rapid acquisition authority and includes an information paper that identifies procedures for the use of rapid acquisition authority. The designation of the Director, Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, is a change from previous guidance, notably a March 22, 2010 memo, "Acquisition Actions in Support of Joint Urgent Operational Needs," from the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics which stated that requests for a Secretary of Defense Determination to use rapid acquisition authority shall be submitted to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics through the JRAC Director.

    Recommendation: To more rapidly field urgent needs solutions aimed at eliminating deficiencies that have resulted in combat fatalities, the Secretary of Defense should amend its implementing memorandum for the department's rapid acquisition authority to designate an OSD entity, such as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, with primary responsibility for recommending to the Secretary of Defense when to implement the department's statutory rapid acquisition authority--as provided in Pub. L. No. 108-375--as urgent needs are validated by the Joint Staff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD's May 2013 Report to Congress on the Review of Acquisition Processes for Rapid Fielding of Capabilities in Response to Urgent Needs, the Warfighter Senior Integration Group (SIG), established by DOD Directive 5000.71, "Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs" from August 2012, will perform this executive council function. According to DOD Directive 5000.71, the Director, Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, as the Executive Secretary of the Warfighter SIG, is responsible for advising the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer of resources required to facilitate the timely resolution of urgent warfighter needs and assist in the resolution of funding issues as required. Further, the directive states that DOD components will use all available authorities to fund urgent operational capabilities expeditiously; and requirements, acquisition, and budgeting processes and decisions will be linked to support a timeline appropriate to the need. Additionally, DOD Instruction 5000.02, "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System" from November 2013, Enclosure 13, "Rapid Acquisition of Urgent Needs," states that DOD components will ensure that financial and other support organizations involved with aspects of the urgent needs acquisition program are fully aware of the urgency of the need and will ensure expedited action.

    Recommendation: To expedite the funding needed to field approved solutions to joint urgent needs, the Secretary of Defense should create an executive council to include the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), the Director of JRAC, the Comptrollers of each of the military services, and other stakeholders as needed, and appoint a chair for the purpose of making timely funding decisions as urgent needs are validated by the Joint Staff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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