Defense Infrastructure:

Army Needs to Improve Its Facility Planning Systems to Better Support Installations Experiencing Significant Growth

GAO-10-602: Published: Jun 24, 2010. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 2010.

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The Army is concurrently implementing several major force structure and basing initiatives, including Base Realignment and Closure, Grow the Force, and Army Modularity. The resulting large increase in personnel associated with these initiatives at many installations has required and will continue to require significant facility planning and construction to meet needs. GAO was asked to (1) describe the Army's investment in domestic facilities to meet the needs associated with the initiatives; (2) determine the extent to which the Army's facility planning systems are complete, current, and accurate; and (3) assess whether stationing information has been provided to installations far enough in advance to permit facility planning and acquisition to accommodate arriving personnel. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant documentation; analyzed budget documents, information from Army planning systems, and facility criteria standards; visited installations; and interviewed relevant officials.

For fiscal years 2006 through 2015, the Army plans to have spent about $31 billion to meet domestic installation facility needs associated with the personnel increases resulting from several major force structure and infrastructure initiatives. This investment will reduce facility shortages at the affected installations, but some shortages will still exist for certain types of facilities, including tactical vehicle maintenance facilities and battalion and company headquarters. The Army estimates that it could cost an additional $19 billion to eliminate the shortages. Yet, without these buildings, the Army will continue to rely on legacy facilities that often do not meet current Army standards or use relocatable facilities. The Army plans to evaluate these requirements and priorities in preparing future budget requests. The systems used by the Army to determine the number, type, and size of facilities needed to accommodate forces stationed at domestic installations have not always produced reliable results for some types of facilities because the systems have often relied on data that are not complete, current, or accurate. GAO examined the criteria system for 62 essential facility types and found that the system did not include the Army's current standard design criteria for 51 of the 62 facilities. Without current criteria embedded into the facility planning systems, the systems cannot help planners accurately calculate facility requirements. Additionally, GAO found that the automated calculations that produce facility allowances--a baseline for determining facility requirements--were questionable in several cases, such as producing a requirement for 74 baseball fields for Fort Bragg. Moreover, because the information from the planning systems is used to identify facility shortages and support budget decisions, incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate data could adversely affect management decisions about the construction and renovation of facilities. The Army has not always provided installation planners with information on stationing actions far enough in advance to allow the installations to prepare the permanent facilities necessary for arriving personnel. Army guidance recommends 5 years' lead time for submitting stationing packages for approval that require new construction; however, the size of ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has led to an increase in the movement of Army personnel, has made this difficult. For example, GAO found cases where installations were informed of stationing decisions with less than a year's notice, which installation officials said was far less time than needed to prepare the required facilities. As a result, new facilities have not always been available for arriving units and installations have had to employ interim measures, such as using relocatable facilities or using sustainment funds to build facilities, which, in turn, could result in needed sustainment work going unmet. GAO also found that installations were not always being notified when proposed stationing actions had been delayed or canceled, potentially leading to funds being wasted on unnecessary preparations.

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: To improve installations' abilities to develop and implement plans to meet their facility requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop a streamlined mechanism to expedite the flow of stationing information to installations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2010 report (GAO-10-602) we reported that the Army's stationing process involves many functional areas and therefore requires close coordination and information sharing. The primary mechanism for informing an installation of a proposed stationing action and obtaining its input is the development and processing of a stationing package. Installations provide vital information regarding facility availability for these packages, and the Army regulation prescribes various timelines that could affect the timing of this input. According to Army officials, for stationing actions that will require new military construction, an installation should receive a package 5 years ahead of when troops and family members will arrive, to coincide with the normal military construction timeline and to provide time for the installation to obtain the necessary funding to build the needed facilities. However, we found the Army's process for providing installations information on stationing actions does not always allow installations sufficient time to accommodate all newly arriving units with permanent facilities?with some installations receiving stationing packages requiring new construction with only 1 year or less of advanced planning time. As a result, new facilities have not always been available for arriving units, and installations have had to employ interim measures, such as using relocatable facilities or using sustainment funds to build facilities. We therefore recommended that the Army develop a streamlined mechanism to expedite the flow of stationing information to installations. In response to our recommendation the Army in August 2010 issued guidance to better synchronize installations participation in stationing efforts. Specifically, the guidance clarified formal lines of communication and established protocols to differentiate between official and unofficial stationing taskings, therefore enabling installation commanders to focus on approved official actions. As a result, we believe the Army's actions met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the accuracy and completeness of the Army's Real Property Planning and Analysis System as a tool for generating facility requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and implement policies and procedures for linking other systems, such as the Army Range Requirements Model and the Army Health Planning Agency's system, to the Real Property Planning and Analysis System in order to eliminate any potential confusion as to the correct range and medical facility requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2010 report (GAO-10-602) we reported that Army guidance calls for its planners to use an Army-wide facility planning system known as the Real Property Planning and Analysis System to determine the amount of facilities needed to accommodate forces stationed at an installation. However, we found that installation planners do not use the Real Property Planning and Analysis System for determining range and medical facility requirements because although the Real Property Planning and Analysis System generates data for ranges and medical requirements, its formulas and criteria do not generate realistic requirements. Instead, installation planners use the Army Range Requirements Model to determine range requirements and the Army Health Facility Planning Agency's data to determine medical facility requirements. However, neither the Army Range Requirements Model nor the Army Health Facility Planning Agency's data is linked to the Real Property Planning and Analysis System and we found that there is no guidance requiring them to be linked. We noted that this could potentially lead to budget requests based on inaccurate requirements and there was potential for installation planners to be confused about which are the correct medical are and range requirements. We therefore recommended that the Army develop and implement policies and procedures for linking these two systems to the Real Property Planning and Analysis System in order to eliminate any potential confusion as to the correct range and medical facility requirements. Consistent with our recommendation, the Army stated that as June 2010 the Army Range Requirements Model was now being used to generate the range requirements in Real Property Planning and Analysis System and that because the Army Health Facility Planning Agency does not have an automated system to generate requirements; the Army was manually obtaining hospital requirements and inputting them into the Real Property Planning and Analysis System; thus, eliminating the two sets of requirements for ranges and hospital and reducing any potential confusion. As a result, we believe the Army's actions met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the accuracy and completeness of the Army's Real Property Planning and Analysis System as a tool for generating facility requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop and implement guidance that requires the Army Criteria Tracking System to be updated as changes to facility design criteria are made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2010 report (GAO-10-602) we reported that to build facility requirements, Army guidance calls for its planners to use an Army-wide facility planning system known as the Real Property Planning and Analysis System, which uses information on the type of units and number of personnel and Army space planning criteria to determine the amount of facilities needed to accommodate forces stationed at an installation. The Real Property Planning and Analysis System uses a formula based on Army facility design criteria contained in the Army Criteria Tracking System to determine the amount of space needed for each type of facility. However, our analysis of criteria in the Army Criteria Tracking System showed that some of the data in the system were missing or out of date. As a result, without the latest, standardized Army-wide criteria embedded in the facility planning systems, there was a risk that facility planners will not be using the most recent criteria to calculate requirements and that facilities will not be planned to meet the latest standards. Moreover, because the information from the planning systems is used to identify facility shortages and support budget decisions, incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate data could adversely affect management decisions about the construction and renovation of facilities. We therefore recommended that the Army develop and implement guidance that requires the Army Criteria Tracking System to be updated as changes to facility design criteria are made. In response to our recommendation, the Army in May 2010 incorporated the functionality of the Army Criteria Tracking System into its web-based Real Property Planning and Analysis System thereby linking the two systems and allowing the Army Criteria Tracking System to be updated as the Real Property Planning and Analysis System is updated. Because the Real Property Planning and Analysis System is web based, changes can be made in real time. Similarly, because the Army Criteria Tracking System is now incorporated into the Real Property Planning and Analysis System, the Army Criteria Tracking System is now web based and changes to it can be made in real time. As a result, we believe the Army's actions met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve installations' abilities to develop and implement plans to meet their facility requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to modify existing guidance to enhance communication between decision makers and installations so that installation facility planners are notified when stationing actions are changed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2010 report (GAO-10-602) we reported that the Army's stationing process involves many functional areas and therefore requires close coordination and information sharing. The primary mechanism for informing an installation of a proposed stationing action and obtaining its input is the development and processing of a stationing package. Installations provide vital information regarding facility availability for these packages, and the Army regulation prescribes various timelines that could affect the timing of this input. However, during our review several installation officials told us that even when they do receive a stationing package and provide input, in many cases they are not notified of subsequent changes to the decision, such as unit arrival dates being canceled, expedited, or delayed. Although stationing guidance directs that there be coordination during the development of a stationing package, there is no specific guidance for communicating subsequent stationing action changes; as a result, subsequent changes to stationing actions are not always being communicated to installations or are not being communicated in a timely manner. This lack of updated information concerning stationing action changes complicates an installation's master planner's ability to provide facilities for arriving personnel and risks the wasting of scarce resources as installations continue to plan for units that will be arriving at a later date or not at all. We therefore recommended that the Army modify existing guidance to enhance communication between decision makers and installations so that installation facility planners are notified when stationing actions are changed. In response to our recommendation the Army in August 2010 issued guidance to better synchronize installations' participation in stationing efforts. Specifically, the guidance (1) clarified formal lines of communication to ensure that all stakeholders are better involved in the early stages of force structure actions and force design updates and (2) established protocols to enable staff to staff communication between installations and Army Headquarters during stationing action implementation to ensure efficient and efficient completion of stationing actions. As a result, we believe the Army's actions met the intent of our recommendation.

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