Prepositioned Materiel and Equipment:

DOD Would Benefit from Developing Strategic Guidance and Improving Joint Oversight

GAO-12-916R: Published: Sep 20, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2012.

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Cary B. Russell
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russellc@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

DOD's fiscal year 2011 report partly addressed the required reporting elements and omitted some additional information that, while not required by law, would be useful for congressional oversight and decision making. Specifically, DOD's report addressed the first five required elements. However, information on the sixth element was incomplete because, while DOD highlighted concerns relative to the commands' theater objectives and strategies and prepositioned materiel and equipment, DOD's report did not provide a list of operation plans affected by a shortfall in prepositioned stocks and a description of actions taken to mitigate risk. In addition, DOD's report did not address the six elements added by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. DOD officials said that those elements were not addressed in DOD's fiscal year 2011 report because the report was already drafted when the requirements were enacted last December, and they plan to address these elements in their next annual report. DOD's report also did not contain some additional information on prepositioned materiel and equipment, which we recommended in our May 2011 report because it would provide a fuller scope of DOD's prepositioning programs. For example, the services place fuel distribution equipment and medical materiel and equipment and other capability sets--including water, habitability equipment such as tents, electrical power and distribution equipment, munitions and rations, among other items--that were not addressed in DOD's report. Without full information on all 12 reporting requirements and complete information on the services' prepositioned materiel and equipment, congressional decision makers do not have a complete picture of DOD's prepositioned materiel and equipment, which would enable them to provide oversight and would inform decisions in a constrained fiscal environment.

DOD has not made progress in implementing DOD-wide strategic guidance and joint efforts to enhance oversight of its prepositioning programs since we last reported on this issue in 2011. Our prior work emphasizes the need for strategic planning as an important element in results-oriented management and that strategic planning can help clarify priorities and unify an agency in pursuit of shared goals. Moreover, setting timelines for implementation can build momentum and show progress. However, DOD has not set a timeline for developing or implementing strategic guidance on its prepositioned programs. In fall 2011, a DOD official stated that DOD had plans to provide such guidance that would enhance oversight, increase program efficiencies, and expand guidance to link prepositioning programs with national military objectives; however by spring 2012, officials said that DOD had changed its plans due to other departmental priorities. According to a DOD official, it is now unclear when DOD plans to issue department-wide strategic guidance on its prepositioning programs. However, without establishing a timeline for developing and implementing such guidance, DOD cannot be assured that its prepositioning programs accurately reflect national military strategies or new departmental priorities, such as the strategic shift in attention to the Asia Pacific region. In addition, DOD's efforts to improve joint oversight of its prepositioning programs have been limited.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Department of Defense (DOD) positions materiel and equipment at strategic locations around the world to enable it to field combat-ready forces in days rather than the weeks it would take if equipment had to be moved from the United States to the location of a military conflict. In addition, DOD uses prepositioned materiel and equipment to support a variety of needs including security cooperation activities, multilateral training exercises abroad, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. Fiscal challenges require DOD to carefully balance the investment in prepositioned materiel and equipment to achieve both national military objectives and other DOD priorities. Prepositioned materiel and equipment played an important role in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, sustained operations have taken a toll on the condition and readiness of military materiel and equipment. DOD has reported to Congress that the military services are committed to reconstituting prepositioned materiel and equipment but must balance these efforts with the department's other priorities, such as restructuring capabilities within its prepositioned materiel and equipment and changes in its overseas military presence.

Section 2229a of Title 10 of the United States Code requires DOD to report annually to the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned stocks as of the end of the fiscal year that precedes the fiscal year during which the report is submitted. Reports are to be submitted no later than the date of the submission of the President's budget request for a given fiscal year. The reporting requirement was established by section 352 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, and was amended by section 341 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which created additional reporting requirements.

Section 2229a of Title 10 of the United States Code requires us to review DOD's report and, as appropriate, to submit to the congressional defense committees any additional information that will further inform the committees on issues relating to the status of the 2005 addressing DOD's reporting and management of its prepositioned materiel and equipment. In our earlier reports we identified a number of long-standing issues and made recommendations regarding the need for a DOD-wide strategy and enhanced joint oversight.

On March 30, 2012, DOD submitted its fiscal year 2011 report on the status of its prepositioned materiel and equipment from October 2010 through September 2011. For our review of DOD's fiscal year 2011 report, we determined (1) the extent to which DOD addressed the 12 reporting requirements, and what additional information, if any, could more fully inform the congressional defense committees on DOD's prepositioned materiel and equipment; and (2) the progress DOD has made on implementing DOD-wide strategic guidance and joint oversight of its prepositioned materiel and equipment.

What GAO Recommends

We recommend that DOD set a timeline for implementing department-wide strategic guidance and ensure the guidance aligns prepositioning programs with national defense strategies and new departmental priorities. The guidance should also emphasize joint oversight to maximize efficiencies in prepositioned materiel and equipment across the department. In commenting on a draft of our report, DOD concurred with our recommendation.

For more information, please contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: After we issued our report in September 2013 with the recommendation for DOD to set a timeline to develop overarching strategic guidance for prepositioning programs, Section 321 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 required DOD to develop and maintain a strategic policy for prepositioned materiel programs and to develop a plan for implementing the policy within 120 days of enactment. In a letter to the defense committees dated April 2014, DOD stated that it would submit the strategy and implementation plan by the end of the second quarter of 2015. Thus, DOD has set a timeline, as we recommended. When DOD completes its strategy and plan, it will help inform departmental priorities and plans for prepositioning and help Congress and DOD with its oversight.

    Recommendation: To more effectively plan and implement its prepositioned materiel and equipment programs, improve oversight, and reduce potential for duplicative efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to set a timeline for implementing our prior recommendation to develop overarching strategic guidance on DOD's prepositioning programs. The strategic guidance should ensure that DOD's prepositioning programs align with national defense strategies and new departmental priorities. It also should emphasize joint oversight to maximize efficiencies in prepositioned materiel and equipment across the department.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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