Defense Infrastructure:

Opportunities Exist to Improve the Navy's Basing Decision Process and DOD Oversight

GAO-10-482: Published: May 11, 2010. Publicly Released: May 11, 2010.

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Decisions by the military services on where to base their force structure can have significant strategic, socioeconomic, and cost implications for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the communities surrounding the bases. Each service uses its own process to make basing decisions. The House Committee on Armed Services directed GAO to review the services' basing decision processes. GAO examined the extent to which (1) the services have comprehensive processes in place that are designed to result in well-informed basing decisions and (2) DOD exercises management control of these processes. GAO reviewed and analyzed DOD and service guidance, studies, and relevant documents on implementation and oversight of the services' basing processes.

The Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force basing decision processes fully incorporate the key elements, associated factors, and management control standards that GAO identified as necessary in a comprehensive process; however, the Navy needs additional guidance for its process to be complete. GAO found that while the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force each have issued comprehensive guidance for their basing possesses that describes the organizational roles and responsibilities within the service, establishes links among all of the service's strategic and environmental guidance documents, and identifies the service's basing criteria, some of the Navy's guidance documents lacked detailed information about specific actions taken during the process and defined responsibility for completing certain types of analyses. For example, the Navy's Strategic Dispersal Flow Chart--one of the five guidance documents used to implement the Navy's process--shows that some types of analyses are conducted to review a range of considerations, such as access to training areas, sailor and family quality of life, and ship size, for a particular basing decision. But the document does not describe in any detail how and by whom these analyses will be conducted. Additionally, Navy guidance does not provide a clear explanation of how its five guidance documents are linked together in implementing the Navy's overall basing process. Without comprehensive and clear guidance on all aspects of the Navy's overall basing decision process, the Navy may lack the completeness and management control to ensure that Navy basing decisions can facilitate external stakeholders' examination and scrutiny or ensure effective implementation of the Navy's basing process. The Secretary of Defense has not set a policy or assigned an office a clear role for providing management control of the services' basing decision processes within the United States, and as a consequence may lack reasonable assurance that certain departmentwide initiatives will be fully supported in the services' basing decisions. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) officials said that OSD is promoting joint sharing of DOD facilities and seeking to ensure that domestic basing decisions support global operations. However, OSD has not fully promoted service consideration of the joint sharing, global operations, and potentially other initiatives because the Secretary of Defense has neither provided a comprehensive policy for, nor clearly assigned an office within OSD to oversee domestic service basing processes. Without OSD guidance and an office to provide effective oversight of military service basing decision processes, the Secretary of Defense lacks reasonable assurance that departmentwide initiatives are adequately considered by the services in their domestic basing decision making.

Status Legend:

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  • 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: The Secretary of Defense should identify a lead office within OSD best suited for the authority and responsibility for providing oversight of the services' domestic basing decision processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's ability to make well-informed basing decisions that are transparent, repeatable, and defendable, and to strengthen the Navy's guidance and associated documentation for its basing decision process, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to describe the link between Navy's five guidance documents--the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction: Navy Organization Change Manual; Strategic Laydown Flow Chart; Strategic Dispersal Flow Chart; the Secretary of the Navy Instruction: Environmental Planning for Department of the Navy Actions; and the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction: Environmental Readiness Program Manual--used to implement the Navy's overall basing decision process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's ability to make well-informed basing decisions that are transparent, repeatable, and defendable, and to strengthen the Navy's guidance and associated documentation for its basing decision process, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to, in its Strategic Dispersal Flow Chart, clearly describe (1) how risk is evaluated and who conducts this analysis; (2) how information flows within the organization; (3) the means of communication with internal and external stakeholders; (4) the areas of authority and responsibility and appropriate lines of reporting; (5) how documents and related records are to be properly maintained to provide evidence that these activities were executed; (6) how regular management and supervisory activities and other related actions are performed during the normal course of this process; and (7) the organizational responsibilities for completing and coordinating the dispersal process actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's ability to make well-informed basing decisions that are transparent, repeatable, and defendable, and to strengthen the Navy's guidance and associated documentation for its basing decision process, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to, in its Strategic Laydown Flow Chart, clearly describe how risk is evaluated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish guidance for the services to ensure that they fully consider joint use of DOD facilities, impacts to global operations, and other departmentwide initiatives during the course of their basing processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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