Active and Reserve Unit Costs:

DOD Report to Congress Generally Addressed the Statutory Requirements but Lacks Detail

GAO-14-711R: Published: Jul 31, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2014.

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(202) 512-3489
PendletonJ@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

GAO found that the Department of Defense's (DOD) report to Congress on the unit cost and readiness for the active and reserve components of the armed forces addressed or partially addressed the five required statutory reporting elements, but could have included more detailed information to give policymakers better insight into affordability and other active and reserve force mix issues. Specifically:

  • Element 1: An analysis of the costs of a sample of deployable units of the active components of the Armed Forces and the costs of a sample of similar deployable units of the reserve components of the Armed Forces. The report addressed this by including a yearly average cost analysis of one similar deployable active and reserve unit for the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
  • Element 2: An assessment of the advisability of retaining, decreasing, or increasing the number and capability mix of units and end strengths of the reserve components of the Armed Forces within the total force structure of the Armed Forces. The report partially addressed this by discussing, and providing a rationale for, the active and reserve component capability mix across a variety of mission areas in the services. The report did not explicitly discuss the advisability of retaining, decreasing, or increasing the size or capability mix of the reserve components.
  • Element 3: The current and most likely anticipated demands for military capabilities in support of the National Military Strategy, including the capability and deployment timeline requirements of the contingency plans of the combatant commands. The report partially addressed this by presenting the current and most likely anticipated demands for military capabilities in broad terms. The report did not include detail about the specific capabilities that are in demand today and did not specifically identify the most likely anticipated demands. Further, it did not identify the capability and deployment timeline requirements of the contingency plans of the combatant commands.
  • Element 4: Authorities available to access the reserve components of the Armed Forces for federal missions. The report addressed this by identifying all of the major Title 10 U.S. Code statutes available to access the reserve component for federal missions. The report addressed this by identifying all of the major Title 10 U.S. Code statutes available to access the reserve component for federal missions.
  • Element 5: Personnel, equipment, and training readiness, and the cost to sustain, mobilize, achieve required pre-deployment readiness levels, and deploy active component units and reserve component units. The report partially addressed this by identifying the costs to sustain and the incremental costs to achieve pre-deployment readiness for the sample active and reserve component units. The report did not include the cost to deploy active and reserve units, nor did it include equipment costs in its unit cost calculations.

In addition, GAO found that DOD's report was effective in discussing personnel and unit costs, the factors that play a key role in active and reserve force mix decisions, and the services' force structure. However, because the report did not address the relative cost of active and reserve units to achieve similar operational capacity or potential differences in the relative effectiveness of active and reserve component units, the extent to which the unit cost comparisons presented in the report can be used to inform force mix decisions is limited.

Why GAO Did This Study

During the past decade, DOD has had to rely heavily upon its reserve components--the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Marine Corps Reserve, and Navy Reserve--to meet operational requirements. The extended use of, and high demand for, reserve component forces for operations has meant that their role evolved from serving primarily as a strategic reserve, used to supplement active duty forces, to being used operationally in ongoing rotational deployments. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (the Act), Section 1080A, required the Secretary of Defense to submit to the congressional defense committees a report describing the costs of units of the reserve and active components of the Armed Forces and required DOD to include five statutory elements.

The Act further mandated GAO to submit to the congressional defense committees an evaluation of the DOD report no later than 180 days after the issuance of the DOD report. GAO examined the extent to which DOD's report addressed the required statutory elements and the report's strengths and potential limitations. To address this objective, GAO assessed DOD's report to determine whether each of the five statutory elements was addressed, partially addressed, or not addressed. To determine the report's strengths and potential limitations, GAO identified alternative approaches for analyzing active and reserve force structure and compared those approaches with DOD's report.

For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-3489 or PendletonJ@gao.gov.

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