Defense Transportation:

Additional Information Is Needed for DOD's Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 to Fully Address All of Its Study Objectives

GAO-11-82R: Published: Dec 8, 2010. Publicly Released: Dec 8, 2010.

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The National Military Strategy of the United States calls upon the Armed Forces to retain the ability to rapidly deploy and sustain capabilities to diverse regions, and the Quadrennial Defense Review 2010 acknowledges the fundamental importance of U.S. capability to project power. The National Security Strategy identifies taking stock of capabilities as one of many ways of reducing military risk. To identify the mobility tools needed for force projection, the Department of Defense (DOD) has conducted several studies, including the fifth and most recent--the Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 (MCRS-16). DOD issued the report in February 2010. The intent of the MCRS-16 was to provide senior leaders with a detailed understanding of the range of mobility capabilities needed for possible future strategic environments and help them make investment decisions regarding mobility systems. Specifically, the study was to examine, among other things, how changes in the mobility system affect the outcomes of major operations and to assess the associated risks. The MCRS-16 determined that with few exceptions, the projected mobility capabilities in 2016 are sufficient to support the most demanding projected requirements. The MCRS-16 reported on specific mobility issues, including the following ten mobility systems addressed in the unclassified executive summary and depicted in figures 1 and 2: Joint High Speed Vessel, Logistics Support Vessel, Intratheater Airlift, Petroleum Oil Lubricants Vessel, Containerships, Civil Air Reserve Fleet (CRAF) Passenger, CRAF Cargo, Strategic Airlift, Roll-0n/Roll-Off Vessels, and Air Refueling. Because of GAO's work assessing the 2005 Mobility Capabilities Study, we reviewed, at Congress' request, the MCRS-16 to determine the extent to which it provides useful information to decision makers. In response to congressional request, we assessed the extent to which the MCRS-16 report addressed its stated objectives. Within the context of relevant generally accepted research standards, we also examined each of the mobility issues cited above in relation to the study's objectives. While this report's executive summary is unclassified, we considered information included in the classified report of the MCRS-16, and our findings are supported by both the classified and unclassified portions of the report. According to its study plan, the MCRS-16 was to accomplish the following five objectives: (1) determine the Joint Deployment Distribution Enterprise needed to support the National Defense Strategy in the 2016 time frame; (2) identify the capabilities and requirements to deploy, employ, sustain, and retrograde joint forces in support of the National Defense Strategy; (3) determine capability gaps (shortfalls) and overlaps (excesses) associated with the programmed mobility force structure; (4) provide a risk assessment; and (5) provide insights and recommendations to support the Quadrennial Defense Review and decisions regarding future defense programs. To inform DOD's 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and support decisions regarding future mobility force structure, the MCRS-16 developed three demanding cases of conflicts/natural disasters with multiple scenarios that occur concurrently over a 7-year period and require the use of mobility capabilities. The MCRS-16 used approved DOD planning scenarios to develop the three cases. For example, in one case, U.S. forces might be required to conduct a large land campaign and a long-term irregular warfare campaign, as well as respond to homeland defense missions. In another case, U.S. operations might include two nearly simultaneous conventional campaigns, while also supporting three nearly simultaneous domestic events and other operations.

The Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 was to report on five study objectives. We found that two of the five study objectives were clearly addressed. However, we found that the study did not clearly or fully address the three remaining objectives. For example: (1) The MCRS-16 did not clearly address its objective to identify gaps (shortfalls) and overlaps (excesses) concerning any of the ten DOD mobility systems in figure 1 and 2. Concerning shortfalls, the MCRS-16 reported that the C-130 aircrew force level is not adequate to meet demands in at least one scenario. However, the MCRS-16 also found that the current C-130 aircraft fleet exceeds the demand for the three MCRS-16 cases that were used to define the conflicts to be modeled. DOD officials told us that there is no C-130 shortfall. As a result, it is unclear whether there is sufficient C-130 capacity when, as stated in the report, the C-130 crew force structure cannot sustain steady-state operations in combination with a conflict. Concerning excesses, the MCRS-16 suggests that there is unused capacity in Joint High Speed Vessels--a system currently in acquisition--but does not identify this unused capacity as potentially unnecessary excess or needed operational reserve. (2) The MCRS-16 study did not fully address its stated objective to include risk assessment associated with any of the ten mobility systems depicted in figure 1 or 2. DOD officials acknowledged that a risk assessment was not done for these mobility systems, but also stated that risk was considered in the warfight analysis done for the study. However, this warfight analysis risk was briefly described but not discussed in the study report. Concerning the lack of mobility systems risk assessments, the study described, for example, the Offshore Petroleum Discharge System as a critical combat enabler and stated that a single system is insufficient to meet the demands of two overlapping land campaigns. (3) The MCRS-16 did not fully address the objective to provide insights and make recommendations. The study provided some insights and made one general recommendation regarding mobility: that the department should continue to explore strategies that seek to mitigate the adverse impacts of infrastructure constraints by reducing reliance on destination infrastructure wherever possible. However, we identified other instances where explicit recommendations may have been useful. Although DOD's analysis raised questions about the potential for shortfalls and excess capabilities, the report did not make recommendations to address or further study these issues. Generally accepted research standards establish that a quality study follows its study plan, explains and documents deviations from the study plan, addresses study objectives, and presents study results in a clear manner. MCRS-16 study leaders told us that they believe the study report contains the information DOD leaders need to make mobility decisions. We agree that the study contains some useful information and is based on rigorous case studies that test the mobility system. However, we believe that additional information is needed to fully address some study objectives and make DOD's analysis more complete and relevant. Without additional information in some areas, decision makers at DOD and in Congress may not have all relevant information to ensure that defense mobility capabilities and requirements are sized most effectively and efficiently to support U.S. defense strategy. Therefore, we are making four recommendations to the Secretary of Defense: to explicitly identify shortfalls and excesses in mobility found in the MCRS-16, provide a risk assessment for the shortfalls and excesses associated with mobility systems identified in the MCRS-16, recommend mitigation strategies where necessary, and provide these analyses to decision makers in DOD and in Congress.

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 provide decision makers with information necessary to assess defense mobility programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and U.S. Transportation Command to recommend mitigation strategies and any needed changes in force structure and planned investments resulting from the potential shortfalls and excesses in the MCRS-16 or explain why mitigation is not necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, H.R. 4310, Section 141 requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in coordination with the Commander of the US Transportation Command and the Secretaries of the military departments, to conduct a study that assesses mobility requirements; it specifies, as a matter included, that the study is to contain identification of mobility capability gaps, shortfalls, overlaps or excesses and an assessment of associated risks, and recommended mitigation strategies where possible. The report is to include a description of concepts, methods, and forces necessary for combat.

    Recommendation: To provide decision makers with information necessary to assess defense mobility programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and U.S. Transportation Command to provide a risk assessment for the potential shortfalls and excesses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, H.R. 4310, Section 141 requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in coordination with the Commander of the US Transportation Command and the Secretaries of the military departments, to conduct a study that assesses mobility requirements; it specifies, as a matter included, that the study is to contain identification of mobility capability gaps, shortfalls, overlaps or excesses and an assessment of associated risks.

    Recommendation: To provide decision makers with information necessary to assess defense mobility programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and U.S. Transportation Command to explicitly identify the shortfalls and excesses in the mobility systems that DOD analyzed for the MCRS-16.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, H.R. 4310, Section 141 requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in coordination with the Commander of the US Transportation Command and the Secretaries of the military departments, to conduct a study that assesses mobility requirements; it specifies, as a matter included, that the study is to contain identification of mobility capability gaps, shortfalls, overlaps or excesses and an assessment of associated risks.

    Recommendation: To provide decision makers with information necessary to assess defense mobility programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and U.S. Transportation Command to provide this additional analysis to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and senior decision makers in DOD and in Congress for their use in further deliberations on mobility capabilities and requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, H.R. 4310, Section 141 requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in coordination with the Commander of the US Transportation Command and the Secretaries of the military departments, to conduct a study that assesses mobility requirements; it specifies, as a matter included, that the study is to contain identification of mobility capability gaps, shortfalls, overlaps or excesses and an assessment of associated risks, and recommended mitigation strategies where possible. The report is to include a description of concepts, methods, and forces necessary for combat. The Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs are directed to submit the Mobility Requirements and Capabilities Study to the defense committees.

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