Defense Logistics:

Actions Needed to Improve the Marine Corps' Equipment Reset Strategies and the Reporting of Total Reset Costs

GAO-11-523: Published: Aug 4, 2011. Publicly Released: Aug 4, 2011.

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The U.S. Marine Corps received approximately $16 billion in appropriated funds between fiscal years 2006 and 2010 for reset of aviation and ground equipment that has been degraded, damaged, and destroyed during oversees contingency operations. Reset encompasses activities for repairing, upgrading, or replacing equipment used in contingency operations. The Marine Corps continues to request funding to reset equipment used in Afghanistan. GAO initiated this review under its authority to address significant issues of broad interest to the Congress. GAO's objectives were to evaluate the extent to which the Marine Corps has made progress toward (1) developing effective reset strategies for both aviation and ground equipment used in Afghanistan and (2) providing accurate estimates of total reset costs.

The Marine Corps has developed a strategic plan that addresses the reset of aviation equipment used in operations in Afghanistan and includes the elements of a comprehensive, results-oriented strategic planning framework. However, a reset strategy for ground equipment has not yet been developed. The Marine Corps is taking steps to develop such a strategy; however, the timeline for completing and issuing this strategy is uncertain. Although Marine Corps officials agreed that a reset strategy for ground equipment will be needed, they stated that they do not plan to issue a strategy until there is a better understanding of the dates for drawdown of forces from Afghanistan. While more specific drawdown information is desirable and will be needed to firm up reset plans, the President stated that troops would begin to withdraw in July 2011, working towards a transfer of all security operations to Afghan National Security Forces by 2014. Until the ground equipment reset strategy is issued, establishing firm plans for reset may be difficult for the Marine Corps Logistics Command to effectively manage the rotation of equipment to units to sustain combat operations. It is also uncertain to what extent the Marine Corps plans to align its ground equipment reset strategy with its ground equipment modernization plan. GAO found that the Iraq reset strategy for ground equipment contained no direct reference to the service's equipment modernization plans, leaving unclear the relationship between reset and modernization. A clear alignment of the ground equipment reset strategy for Afghanistan and modernization plans would help to ensure that the identification, development, and integration of warfighting capabilities also factor in equipment reset strategies so that equipment planned for modernization is not unnecessarily repaired. The total costs of reset estimated by the Marine Corps may not be accurate or consistent because of differing definitions of reset that have been used for aviation and ground equipment. These differing definitions exist because Department of Defense (DOD) has not established a single standard definition for use in DOD's budget process. Specifically, the Marine Corps does not include aviation equipment procurement costs when estimating total reset costs. According to Marine Corps officials, procurement costs are excluded because such costs are not consistent with its definition of aviation equipment reset. In contrast, the Marine Corps' definition of reset for ground equipment includes procurement costs to replace theater losses. However, GAO found that the Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation had obtained a procurement cost estimate for Marine Corps aviation equipment as part of its efforts to track reset costs for the department. DOD's Resource Management Decision 700 tasks the Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to provide annual departmentwide reset updates. GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense (1) establish a timeline for issuing formal reset planning guidance and a ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in operations in Afghanistan, (2) provide linkages between the ground equipment reset strategy and the modernization plan, and (3) develop and publish a DOD definition of reset for use in the DOD overseas contingency operations budgeting process. DOD concurred with one and partially concurred with two of the recommendations.

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 improve the Marine Corps' ability to plan, budget for, and execute the reset of ground equipment used in Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to establish a timeline for completing and issuing formal reset planning guidance and a ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in Afghanistan that allows operating force units and the Marine Corps Logistics Command to effectively manage equipment reset.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2011, we reported that the Marine Corps had developed a strategic plan that addressed the reset of aviation equipment used in operations in Afghanistan, but had not developed a reset strategy for its ground equipment or established a timeline for completing the strategy. As a result, we recommended that the Marine Corps establish a timeline for issuing formal reset planning guidance and a ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in operations in Afghanistan. In response to our recommendation, on January 1, 2012, the Marine Corps issued its Operation Enduring Freedom Ground Equipment Reset Strategy; which provides Service level guidance for Operation Enduring Freedom ground equipment reset planning and execution. This strategy and related guidance will help facilitate a more effective management of equipment reset by providing a unity of effort across the operating forces and supporting establishment. Therefore, we are closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the Marine Corps' ability to plan, budget for, and execute the reset of ground equipment used in Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to provide linkages between the ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in Afghanistan and equipment modernization plans, including the Expeditionary Force Development System and the annual Program Objective Memorandum Marine Air-Ground Task Force Requirements List.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2011, we reported that it was not clear to what extent the Marine Corps planned to align its ground equipment reset strategy with its ground equipment modernization plan. Specifically, we reported that the Iraq reset strategy for ground equipment contained no direct reference to the service's equipment modernization plans, leaving unclear the relationship between equipment to be reset and equipment to be replaced through modernization. As a result, we recommended that the Marine Corps provide linkages between its ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in Afghanistan and equipment modernization plans, including the Expeditionary Force Development System and the annual Program Objective Memorandum Marine Air-Ground Task Force Requirements List. In response to our recommendation, in May 2012, the Marine Corps took steps to ensure that all reset stakeholders have a common operating picture by establishing linkages between its ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in Afghanistan and equipment acquisition outlined in its modernization plans, including the Expeditionary Force Development System and the annual Program Objective Memorandum Marine Air-Ground Task Force Requirements List, the Marine Corps Operation Enduring Freedom Reset Plan, the Operation Enduring Freedom Reset Playbook, and the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Integration Plan. Specifically, the Reset Playbook documents the linkage between acquisition and reset actions and is updated monthly to reflect the current and future requirements, as well as the current on-hand inventories, which are critical to aligning the Marine Corps' reset strategy with its modernization planning efforts. This clear alignment of the ground equipment reset strategy for Afghanistan and equipment modernization plans will help to ensure that the identification, development, and integration of warfighting capabilities also factor in equipment reset strategies so that equipment planned to be replaced through modernization is not unnecessarily repaired. Therefore, we are closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve oversight and ensure consistency in the reporting of total reset costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in coordination with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics, the services, and the Joint Staff to act on the tasking in the Resource Management Decision 700 to develop and publish a DOD definition of reset for use in the DOD overseas contingency operations budgeting process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2011, we recommended that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in coordination with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics, the services, and the Joint Staff to act on the tasking in the Resource Management Decision 700 to develop and publish a DOD definition of reset for use in the DOD overseas contingency operations budgeting process. According to OSD, a definition of reset for use in the overseas contingencies operations budgeting process has been developed and incorporated into a draft update to the DOD Financial Management Regulations, which is currently in coordination within the Department and estimated to be published in the January 2015 time frame.

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