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entitled 'Special Operations Forces: Management Actions Are Needed to 
Effectively Integrate Marine Corps Forces into U.S. Special Operations 
Command' which was released on September 5, 2007. 

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Report to Congressional Committees: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

September 2007: 

Special Operations Forces: 

Management Actions Are Needed to Effectively Integrate Marine Corps 
Forces into the U.S. Special Operations Command: 

Special Operations Forces: 

GAO-07-1030: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-1030, a report to congressional committees. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The Department of Defense (DOD) has relied on special operations forces 
to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and to perform 
other tasks such as training foreign military forces. To meet the 
demand for these forces, DOD established a Marine Corps service 
component under the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to 
integrate Marine Corps forces. Under the authority of the Comptroller 
General, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) the Marine Corps special 
operations command has identified its force structure requirements, (2) 
the Marine Corps has developed a strategic human capital approach to 
manage personnel in its special operations command, and (3) USSOCOM has 
determined whether Marine Corps training programs are preparing its 
forces for assigned missions. GAO performed its work with the Marine 
Corps and USSOCOM and analyzed DOD plans for this new command. 

What GAO Found: 

While the Marine Corps has made progress in establishing its special 
operations command (Command), the Command has not yet fully identified 
the force structure needed to perform its assigned missions. DOD 
developed initial force structure plans to establish the Command; 
however, it did not use critical practices of strategic planning, such 
as the alignment of activities and resources and the involvement of 
stakeholders in decision-making processes when developing these plans. 
As a result of limitations in the strategic planning process, the 
Command has identified several force structure challenges that will 
likely affect the Commandís ability to perform its full range of 
responsibilities, and is working to revise its force structure. 

Although preliminary steps have been taken, the Marine Corps has not 
developed a strategic human capital approach to manage the critical 
skills and competencies required of personnel in its special operations 
command. While the Command has identified some skills needed to perform 
special operations missions, it has not conducted a comprehensive 
analysis to determine all of the critical skills and incremental 
training required of personnel in its special operations forces units. 
These analyses are critical to the Marine Corpsí efforts to develop a 
strategic human capital approach for the management of personnel in its 
special operations forces units. Without the benefit of these analyses, 
the Marine Corps has developed an interim policy to assign some 
personnel to special operations forces units for extended tour lengths 
to account for the additional training and skills; however, the policy 
is inconsistent with the Commandís goal for the permanent assignment of 
some personnel within the special operations community. Until the 
Command completes an analysis to identify and document the critical 
skills and competencies needed by its future workforce to perform its 
full range of special operations missions, the Marine Corps will not 
have a sound basis for developing or evaluating alternative strategic 
human capital approaches for managing personnel assigned to its special 
operations forces units. 

USSOCOM does not have a sound basis for determining whether the 
Commandís training programs are preparing units for their missions 
because it has not established common training standards for many 
special operations skills and it has not formally evaluated whether 
these programs prepare units to be fully interoperable with other 
special operations forces. The Command is providing training to its 
forces that is based on training programs for conventional units that 
were assigned some special operations missions prior to the Commandís 
activation and incorporates the training that USSOCOMís other service 
components provide to their forces. However, USSOCOM has not validated 
that the training for Marine Corps forces prepares them to be fully 
interoperable with DODís other special operations forces. Without an 
evaluation, USSOCOM cannot demonstrate the needed assurances that 
Marine Corps forces are fully interoperable with its other forces, 
which may jeopardize the success of future joint missions. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO recommends that the Marine Corps conduct an analysis of the 
critical skills and competencies required of personnel in its special 
operations command and that USSOCOM establish a basis to ensure they 
are trained to be fully interoperable with DODís special operations 
forces. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD generally 
concurred with GAOís recommendations and noted that actions consistent 
with the recommendations are underway. 

[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1030]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Sharon Pickup at (202) 
512-9619 or pickups@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Results in Brief: 

Background: 

Although Some Progress Made in Establishing Marine Corps Special 
Operations Command, Force Structure Needed to Perform Its Missions Has 
Not Been Fully Identified: 

Although Preliminary Steps Have Been Taken, the Marine Corps Has Not 
Developed a Strategic Human Capital Approach to Manage the Critical 
Skills And Competencies Required of Personnel in Its Special Operations 
Command: 

USSOCOM Does Not Have a Sound Basis for Determining Whether Marine 
Corps Special Operations Forces Training Programs Prepare Units for 
Missions: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Tables: 

Table 1: Description of Special Operations Forces' Core Tasks: 

Table 2: Description of Units within the Marine Corps Forces Special 
Operations Command: 

Table 3: Actual and Projected Funding for the Marine Corps Special 
Operations Command, Fiscal Years 2006 through 2013: 

Figures: 

Figure 1: Timeline of Key Events in the Integration of Marine Corps 
Forces into USSOCOM: 

Figure 2: Fiscal Year 2007 Military Positions Authorized for Special 
Operations Forces Personnel in the Active Component and Reserve 
Component: 

Abbreviations: 

DOD: Department of Defense: 
GAO: Government Accountability Office: 
SEAL: Sea, Air, Land: 
USSOCOM: U.S. Special Operations Command: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

Washington, DC 20548: 

September 5, 2007: 

The Honorable Carl Levin: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable John McCain: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Ike Skelton: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Duncan Hunter: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
House of Representatives: 

In 1987, the Department of Defense (DOD) established the U.S. Special 
Operations Command (USSOCOM) with a primary mission to provide trained 
and combat-ready special operations forces to the department's 
geographic combatant commanders.[Footnote 1] These forces differ from 
conventional forces in that they are specially organized, trained, and 
equipped to conduct operations in hostile or politically sensitive 
environments and they employ military capabilities that are not present 
in conventional military forces. Subsequent to its activation, USSOCOM 
assumed operational control of existing units from the Army, Navy, and 
Air Force.[Footnote 2] However, the Marine Corps did not assign any of 
its forces to USSOCOM, citing a need to retain the flexibility needed 
to perform its missions. Instead, the Marine Corps created a program to 
deploy forces to the geographic combatant commands that were trained to 
perform some special operations missions. 

With the onset of the war on terrorism, DOD has greatly expanded the 
role of USSOCOM. As part of its strategy for this war, the department 
has relied on special operations forces to conduct military operations 
in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, special 
operations forces have performed other types of military tasks, such as 
training and advising foreign military forces in a number of countries 
around the world, in order to build the capabilities of partner nations 
to combat terrorists more effectively within their own borders. To meet 
these commitments, special operations forces have experienced a 
substantial increase in deployments. For example, we reported in July 
2006 that from fiscal year 2000 through fiscal year 2005, the average 
weekly number of special operations forces personnel who deployed to 
the department's geographic combatant commands increased by 64 
percent.[Footnote 3] DOD recognizes that it needs additional special 
operations forces to defeat terrorist networks and has sought to 
increase the number of these forces. One department initiative to 
increase the number of special operations forces has been to integrate 
Marine Corps forces into USSOCOM. In 2005, the Secretary of Defense 
requested that the Marine Corps and USSOCOM develop plans to establish 
a Marine Corps service component to integrate Marine Corps forces 
within the special operations community. In October 2005, the Secretary 
of Defense approved the establishment of a Marine Corps special 
operations command (Command) as a service component to USSOCOM. 

The Marine Corps activated its special operations command in February 
2006, and in August 2006 began deploying special operations forces 
units to conduct missions for the geographic combatant commanders. On 
the basis of initial department guidance, the Marine Corps special 
operations command will be comprised of approximately 2,600 Marines and 
Navy personnel to train foreign military forces and conduct other 
special operations missions. According to current plans, the Command 
will be fully operationally capable by the end of fiscal year 
2008.[Footnote 4] At DOD's request, the Congress has provided the 
Marine Corps and USSOCOM with regular and supplemental appropriations 
in fiscal years 2006 and 2007 totaling $509.5 million (excluding 
military personnel costs) to establish the Marine Corps special 
operations command.[Footnote 5] In addition, the Marine Corps and 
USSOCOM have projected funding needs for the Command totaling $907.8 
million for fiscal years 2008 through 2013. 

While USSOCOM is responsible for monitoring the status of its 
personnel, it does not have authority over personnel management issues 
such as recruiting, retention, or the assignment of servicemembers in 
special operations forces units. Instead, personnel management is the 
responsibility of each military service, and each service handles those 
responsibilities differently. For example, the Marine Corps is 
assigning personnel to its special operations command from a variety of 
career fields,[Footnote 6] such as reconnaissance and intelligence, and 
plans to rotate these personnel between special operations forces units 
and conventional force units. This policy is in contrast to the 
management of some special operations forces personnel in the other 
military services. The Army, for example, has established separate 
career fields for Special Forces and Civil Affairs soldiers and in 
fiscal year 2007, the Navy established a separate career field for 
SEALs. Once assigned to the Command, personnel will be provided with 
additional training for the skills that are required to perform special 
operations missions. In general, the Marine Corps will retain the 
responsibility for providing training for basic Marine Corps skills to 
personnel who are assigned to its special operations forces units. 
USSOCOM, through its Marine Corps service component command, is 
responsible for providing training for special operations-unique skills 
to Marine Corps personnel in these units. 

We prepared this report under the Comptroller General's authority to 
conduct evaluations on his own initiative. Our objective was to 
evaluate DOD's efforts to establish a Marine Corps special operations 
command. Specifically, we assessed the extent to which (1) the Marine 
Corps special operations command has identified the force structure 
needed to perform its mission, (2) the Marine Corps has developed a 
strategic human capital approach to manage the critical skills and 
competencies required of personnel in its special operations command, 
and (3) USSOCOM has determined whether Marine Corps special operations 
forces training programs are preparing these forces for assigned 
missions. 

To assess the extent to which the Marine Corps special operations 
command has identified the force structure needed to perform its 
mission, we identified and reviewed reports related to the department's 
efforts to increase the size of special operations forces by 
integrating Marine Corps forces into USSOCOM. We analyzed available 
internal DOD documentation such as briefings, guidance, and memoranda 
that identified DOD's plans and time frames for establishing the Marine 
Corps special operations command. We discussed DOD's decision-making 
processes for developing force structure plans for the new Command with 
officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense; the Joint Staff; 
Headquarters, Marine Corps; USSOCOM; and the geographic combatant 
commands. We also reviewed documents and interviewed officials with the 
Marine Corps special operations command to determine the force 
structure challenges the Command has identified and the plans that are 
being developed to revise its force structure. To assess the extent to 
which the Marine Corps has developed a strategic human capital approach 
to manage the critical skills and competencies required of personnel in 
its special operations forces units, we analyzed relevant Marine Corps 
policies for assigning personnel to conventional force units and to 
special operations forces units. We conducted interviews with officials 
from Headquarters, Marine Corps, who are responsible for managing 
personnel assigned to the Marine Corps special operations command. To 
better understand the unique personnel needs of the Marine Corps 
special operations command, we interviewed officials from the Command 
to discuss the specialized skills and training that are required by 
personnel who are assigned to special operations forces units to 
perform the Command's assigned missions. To assess the extent to which 
USSOCOM has determined whether Marine Corps special operations forces 
training programs are preparing these forces for assigned missions, we 
examined relevant laws and DOD doctrine related to the responsibilities 
of the Marine Corps and USSOCOM for training special operations forces 
personnel. We reviewed available documents that detail training 
programs for Marine Corps special operations forces. We collected and 
analyzed documents related to USSOCOM's evaluations of Marine Corps 
special operations forces training, and we discussed the efforts that 
have been taken by the Marine Corps special operations command and 
USSOCOM to assess the effectiveness of these training programs. Our 
assessment of data reliability concluded that the data used to support 
this review were sufficiently reliable to answer our objectives. We 
conducted our review from August 2006 through July 2007 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. A more detailed 
discussion of our scope and methodology is contained in appendix I. 

Results in Brief: 

Although the Marine Corps has made progress in establishing its special 
operations command, the Command has not yet fully identified the force 
structure needed to perform its assigned missions. The Marine Corps has 
taken several steps to establish its special operations command, such 
as activating the Command's headquarters, establishing Marine Corps 
special operations forces units, and deploying these units to conduct 
special operations missions. DOD developed initial force structure 
requirements for the Command by basing the composition and number of 
special operations units on existing units within the Marine Corps that 
had performed similar missions in the past, but did not use critical 
practices of effective strategic planning when developing these 
requirements. We have previously reported on several practices that are 
critical to effective strategic planning, including the alignment of 
activities and resources to support organizational missions and the 
involvement of stakeholders in decision-making processes to help ensure 
efforts and resources are targeted to the highest priorities.[Footnote 
7] However, DOD did not fully incorporate these critical practices 
during its planning for the Marine Corps special operations command. 
For example, the Command's activities and resources were not fully 
aligned with the organization's mission. Neither the Office of the 
Secretary of Defense nor the Marine Corps conducted a comprehensive, 
data-driven analysis to determine the number of personnel needed to 
meet the Command's mission requirements, and the number of personnel 
authorized for the Command was not directly tied to specific mission 
requirements. In addition, we found that some key stakeholders were not 
involved in the establishment of the Marine Corps special operations 
command. For example, the special operations components within the 
department's geographic combatant commands--which are responsible for 
commanding special operations forces around the world--were not 
involved in the process to establish the Marine Corps special 
operations command or in the decisions to target the service's 
resources to their highest priorities and mission requirements. As a 
result of limitations in the strategic planning process, the Command 
has identified several challenges related to its planned force 
structure. For example, officials identified shortfalls in the number 
of personnel available to conduct support functions for Marine Corps 
special operations forces units. Additionally, the Command has 
determined that the number and composition of its special operations 
forces units are not aligned with the Command's mission requirements 
and, at the time we issued our report, the Marine Corps special 
operations command was developing several proposals to significantly 
revise its force structure to better meet its mission needs. These 
revisions would adjust the number and size of the Command's warfighter 
units to better meet mission requirements. Although the Command had not 
completed several analyses of the personnel and funding requirements 
that are tied to these proposed force structure changes, it has set 
milestones for completing its work. Until the analyses are completed, 
however, the Command will be unable to determine whether the approved 
plans for its personnel and funding should be adjusted in order for the 
Command to perform all of its assigned missions. 

Although some preliminary steps have been taken, the Marine Corps has 
not developed a strategic human capital approach to manage personnel in 
its special operations command because the Command has not yet 
conducted a comprehensive analysis to identify the critical skills and 
competencies required of personnel in its special operations forces 
units. Our prior work has shown that the analysis of critical skill and 
competency gaps between current and future workforce needs is an 
important step in strategic human capital planning.[Footnote 8] The 
Marine Corps special operations command has begun to identify some of 
the critical skills that are needed to perform special operations 
missions. For example, as part of the effort to identify these critical 
skills, it is developing a training course that will provide baseline 
training to newly assigned personnel to prepare them for positions in 
warfighter units. The Command plans to provide these personnel with 
training on advanced survival skills and foreign languages. However, 
the Command has not conducted a comprehensive analysis to fully 
identify and document the advanced skills and additional training that 
are necessary to support its full range of assigned missions. Moreover, 
the Command has not yet fully determined which positions should be 
filled by specially trained personnel who are strategically managed to 
meet the Command's missions. Such analyses are critical to the Marine 
Corps' efforts to develop a strategic human capital approach for the 
management of personnel in its special operations forces units. Without 
the benefit of these analyses, the Marine Corps has developed an 
interim policy to assign some personnel to special operations forces 
units for extended tour lengths to account for the additional training 
and skills. According to officials with Headquarters, Marine Corps, and 
the Marine Corps special operations command, the interim policy is 
designed, in part, to retain some personnel at the Marine Corps special 
operations command long enough to complete specialized training and 
conduct at least two deployments. However, the interim policy is 
inconsistent with the Marine Corps special operations command's goal 
for the permanent assignment of some personnel within the special 
operations community. According to officials from the Command, 
permanent assignments for personnel in special operations forces units 
are necessary to develop and sustain the critical skills required to 
support the Command's full range of assigned missions. Officials with 
Headquarters, Marine Corps, told us the service plans to review the 
interim policy and work with the Marine Corps special operations 
command to develop a management strategy that better meets the 
Command's personnel needs. However, until the Command completes a 
comprehensive analysis to identify and document the critical skills and 
training needed by its future workforce to perform the Command's full 
range of assigned special operations missions, the Marine Corps will 
not have a sound basis for developing or evaluating alternative 
strategic human capital approaches for the management of personnel 
assigned to its special operations forces units. 

USSOCOM does not have a sound basis for determining whether the Marine 
Corps special operations command's training programs are preparing its 
forces for their missions because it has not established common 
training standards for many special operations skills and it has not 
formally evaluated whether these programs will prepare units to be 
fully interoperable with other special operations forces. The Marine 
Corps special operations command has taken several actions to implement 
training programs to fulfill its responsibility for training personnel 
to a unique set of special operations forces standards. For example, 
the Command has provided training to its forces that has been adapted 
from the training programs for conventional units that were assigned 
some special operations missions prior to the activation of the 
Command. In addition, Command officials told us that training programs 
for missions that conventional units are not assigned have been 
determined by consulting with, and selectively incorporating, the 
service-specific training that USSOCOM's other service components 
provide to their special operations forces. Although USSOCOM is 
responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of all training programs 
and for ensuring the interoperability of all of DOD's special 
operations forces, it does not have a sound basis to determine whether 
Marine Corps training programs are preparing units for their missions 
for two reasons. First, common training standards have not yet been 
established for many special operations skills. USSOCOM has established 
common training standards for some skills, and is working on an 
incremental basis to develop common standards for additional skills 
because of the recognition that current service-specific training may 
not optimize opportunities for commonality, jointness, or efficiency. 
Second, while USSOCOM has taken some limited steps to evaluate the 
training provided to Marine Corps special operations forces, it has not 
formally validated that the training programs developed by the Marine 
Corps special operations command meet special operations forces 
standards and prepare forces to be fully interoperable with the 
department's other special operations forces. Without common training 
standards for special operations skills or a formal evaluation of the 
training and standards used to prepare Marine Corps forces for 
deployments, USSOCOM cannot demonstrate the needed assurances to the 
geographic combatant commanders that these forces are being trained to 
special operations forces standards and that these forces are fully 
interoperable with DOD's other special operations forces, thereby 
potentially impacting the success of future joint operations. 

To facilitate the development of a strategic human capital approach for 
the management of personnel assigned to the Marine Corps special 
operations command and to validate that Marine Corps special operations 
forces are trained in a manner that is fully interoperable with DOD's 
other special operations forces, we are making recommendations to the 
Secretary of Defense to (1) direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps 
to conduct an analysis of the critical skills and competencies required 
of personnel in Marine Corps special operations forces units, establish 
milestones for conducting this analysis, and use the results of this 
analysis to develop a strategic human capital approach for the 
management of these personnel; and (2) direct the Commander, USSOCOM, 
to establish a framework for evaluating Marine Corps special operations 
forces training programs to ensure the programs are sufficient to 
prepare Marine Corps special operations forces to be fully 
interoperable with the department's other special operations forces. In 
commenting on a draft of this report, DOD generally concurred with our 
recommendations and noted that actions consistent with the 
recommendations are underway. 

Background: 

In 1986, the President signed a joint resolution of Congress that 
directed the Secretary of Defense to establish a unified combatant 
command for special operations forces.[Footnote 9] In April 1987, the 
Secretary of Defense established USSOCOM with the mission to provide 
trained and combat-ready special operations forces to DOD's geographic 
combatant commands. Since 2003, DOD has further expanded the role of 
USSOCOM to include greater responsibility for planning and leading the 
department's efforts in the war on terrorism. In addition to training, 
organizing, equipping, and deploying combat-ready special operations 
forces to the geographic combatant commands, USSOCOM has the mission to 
lead, plan, synchronize, and, as directed, execute global operations 
against terrorist networks. 

Tasks and Missions of Special Operations Forces: 

DOD doctrine describes the characteristics of special operations 
forces, and provides joint force commanders with the guidance and 
information necessary to identify, nominate, and select missions 
appropriate for special operations forces.[Footnote 10] According to 
doctrine, special operations forces perform two types of activities: 
special operations forces perform tasks that no other forces in DOD 
conduct, and they perform tasks that other DOD forces conduct but do so 
according to a unique set of conditions and standards. In particular, 
special operations forces are specifically organized, trained, and 
equipped to accomplish nine core tasks, which represent the collective 
capabilities of all special operations forces rather than those of any 
one unit. Table 1 defines these core tasks. 

Table 1: Description of Special Operations Forces' Core Tasks: 

Core task: Direct action; 
Description: Short duration strikes and other small-scale offensive 
actions conducted in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive 
environments to seize, destroy, capture, exploit, recover, or damage 
designated targets. 

Core task: Special reconnaissance; 
Description: Reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted in 
hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to collect or 
verify information of strategic or operational significance, employing 
military capabilities not normally found in conventional forces. 

Core task: Foreign internal defense; 
Description: Participation by civilian and military agencies of a 
government in any of the action programs taken by another government or 
other designated organization, to free and protect its society from 
subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. 

Core task: Unconventional warfare; 
Description: A broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations, 
normally of long duration, predominately conducted through, with, or by 
indigenous or surrogate forces that are organized, trained, equipped, 
supported, and directed in varying degrees by an external source. 

Core task: Counterterrorism; 
Description: Offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, and respond to 
terrorism. 

Core task: Counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; 
Description: Actions taken to locate, seize, destroy, render safe, 
capture, or recover weapons of mass destruction. 

Core task: Civil affairs operations; 
Description: Operations that establish, maintain, influence, or exploit 
relations among military forces, government and nongovernmental 
civilian organizations and authorities, and the civilian populace in 
friendly, neutral, or hostile areas of operations in order to 
facilitate military operations and consolidate and achieve U.S. 
national objectives. 

Core task: Psychological operations; 
Description: Planned operations to convey selected information and 
indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, 
objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign 
governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. 

Core task: Information operations; 
Description: Actions taken to affect adversary information and 
information systems while defending one's own information and 
information systems. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data.  

[End of table] 

Prior Actions Taken to Integrate Marine Corps Forces into USSOCOM: 

Since 1987, the Marine Corps and USSOCOM have taken several steps to 
expand the relationship between the two organizations. For example, 
beginning in 1993, the Marine Corps and USSOCOM established a working 
group to discuss efforts to improve communication, cooperation, and 
interoperability. These efforts received a renewed emphasis with the 
onset of the war on terrorism. In 2002, the Secretary of Defense 
requested the military services to increase their support to USSOCOM. 
In 2003, the Marine Corps established a specially trained and equipped 
unit as a concept to demonstrate the Marine Corps' ability to conduct 
special operations missions under the operational control of USSOCOM. 
This unit deployed to Iraq in April 2004 to perform selected special 
operations missions. The Secretary of Defense approved the 
establishment of a Marine Corps service component to USSOCOM in October 
2005. In February 2006, the Marine Corps activated its special 
operations command. Since August 2006, the Marine Corps special 
operations command has deployed its forces to perform special 
operations missions to support the geographic combatant commanders' 
requirements. Figure 1 provides a timeline. 

Figure 1: Timeline of Key Events in the Integration of Marine Corps 
Forces into USSOCOM: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

[End of figure] 

Organization of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command: 

The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is the Marine Corps 
service component to USSOCOM. The Command is headquartered on Marine 
Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The Marine Corps special 
operations command has five major subordinate units. These units 
include two Marine Special Operations Battalions, the Marine Special 
Operations Advisor Group,[Footnote 11] the Marine Special Operations 
Support Group, and the Marine Special Operations School. Table 2 
provides a description of each unit. 

Table 2: Description of Units within the Marine Corps Forces Special 
Operations Command: 

Unit: Marine Special Operations Battalion; 
Description: Provides special operations companies to perform direct 
action, special reconnaissance, and foreign internal defense 
operations: companies can deploy aboard a Marine Expeditionary Unit or 
independently. 

Unit: Marine Special Operations Advisor Group; 
Description: Provides tailored, combat skills training and advisor 
support for identified foreign forces to enhance the capability of 
partner nation forces. 

Unit: Marine Special Operations Support Group; 
Description: Provides tailorable and scalable support capabilities for 
worldwide special operations missions, including intelligence and 
communications support, combined arms, military working dog support, 
and combat service support. 

Unit: Marine Special Operations School; 
Description: Conducts assessment and selection of Marines assigned to 
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, develops and 
standardizes doctrine and tactics, and trains and certifies units for 
worldwide deployments. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

[End of table] 

By fiscal year 2011, the Command will be authorized 2,516 personnel-- 
2,483 military personnel and 33 civilians. With the exception of one 
Marine Corps reserve position, all of the authorized military personnel 
will be drawn from the military services' active components. The Marine 
Corps special operations component will be the smallest service 
component under USSOCOM. The other military services' special 
operations components include the following. 

* The Army component is the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Army 
special operations forces include Special Forces, Rangers, Special 
Operations Aviation, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations units. 

* The Navy component is the Naval Special Warfare Command. Naval 
Special Warfare forces include SEAL Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, 
and Special Boat Teams. 

* The Air Force component is the Air Force Special Operations Command. 
Air Force special operations forces include fixed and rotary wing 
aviation squadrons, a combat aviation advisory squadron, special 
tactics squadrons, and an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron. 

Figure 2 shows the number of military personnel positions in fiscal 
year 2007 authorized for DOD's special operations forces in the active 
component and reserve component. The authorizations include positions 
in special operations forces warfighter units, support units, and 
headquarters units such as USSOCOM and its service component commands. 

Figure 2: Fiscal Year 2007 Military Positions Authorized for Special 
Operations Forces Personnel in the Active Component and Reserve 
Component: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

[End of figure] 

Funding for the Marine Corps Special Operations Command: 

Since fiscal year 2006, the Marine Corps and USSOCOM have requested 
baseline and supplemental funding for the Marine Corps special 
operations command. In fiscal year 2006, the Marine Corps and USSOCOM 
received $109.3 million in supplemental funds to establish the Marine 
Corps special operations command. In fiscal year 2007, the Marine Corps 
and USSOCOM received an additional $368.2 million in baseline funds for 
the Command, and $32 million in supplemental funding. As shown in table 
3, the Marine Corps and USSOCOM have projected military construction, 
operation and maintenance, and procurement funding for the Command for 
fiscal years 2008 through 2013. 

Table 3: Actual and Projected Funding for the Marine Corps Special 
Operations Command, Fiscal Years 2006 through 2013: 

Dollars in millions. 

Appropriation account: Military Construction; 
Fiscal year 2006: $0; 
Fiscal year 2007: $228.6; 
Fiscal year 2008: $123.4; 
Fiscal year 2009: $10.1; 
Fiscal year 2010: $0; 
Fiscal year 2011: $0; 
Fiscal year 2012: $0; 
Fiscal year 2013: $0. 

Appropriation : Operation and Maintenance; 
Fiscal year 2006: 0; 
Fiscal year 2007: 65.6; 
Fiscal year 2008: 100.4; 
Fiscal year 2009: 110.6; 
Fiscal year 2010: 74.5; 
Fiscal year 2011: 69.9; 
Fiscal year 2012: 72.3; 
Fiscal year 2013: 75.8. 

Appropriation account: Procurement; 
Fiscal year 2006: 0; 
Fiscal year 2007: 74.0; 
Fiscal year 2008: 56.1; 
Fiscal year 2009: 57.6; 
Fiscal year 2010: 70.6; 
Fiscal year 2011: 77.4; 
Fiscal year 2012: 2.2; 
Fiscal year 2013: 6.9. 

Appropriation : Supplemental; 
Fiscal year 2006: 109.3; 
Fiscal year 2007: 32.0; 
Fiscal year 2008: [Empty]; 
Fiscal year 2009: [Empty]; 
Fiscal year 2010: [Empty]; 
Fiscal year 2011: [Empty]; 
Fiscal year 2012: [Empty]; 
Fiscal year 2013: [Empty]. 

Total; 
Fiscal year 2006: $109.3; 
Fiscal year 2007: $400.2; 
Fiscal year 2008: $279.9; 
Fiscal year 2009: $178.3; 
Fiscal year 2010: $145.1; 
Fiscal year 2011: $147.3; 
Fiscal year 2012: $74.5; 
Fiscal year 2013: $82.7. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data as of February 13, 2007. 

Note: Amounts include Marine Corps and USSOCOM funding for the Marine 
Corps special operations command. 

[End of table] 

Although Some Progress Made in Establishing Marine Corps Special 
Operations Command, Force Structure Needed to Perform Its Missions Has 
Not Been Fully Identified: 

Although the Marine Corps has made progress in establishing its special 
operations command, the Command has not fully identified the force 
structure needed to enable it to perform its assigned missions. The 
Marine Corps has taken several steps to establish its special 
operations command, such as activating the Command's headquarters, 
establishing Marine Corps special operations forces units, and 
deploying these units to conduct special operations missions; however, 
DOD did not use critical practices of effective strategic planning when 
developing the initial force structure plans for the Command. As a 
result of limitations in the strategic planning process, the Marine 
Corps special operations command has identified several force structure 
challenges that will likely affect the Command's ability to perform its 
full range of responsibilities, and is working to revise its force 
structure to address these challenges. 

Steps Taken to Establish Marine Corps Special Operations Command, but 
Initial Force Structure Plans Were Not Developed Using Critical 
Practices of Effective Strategic Planning: 

The Marine Corps has taken several steps to establish the Marine Corps 
special operations command. For example, the Marine Corps has activated 
the headquarters of its special operations command, established some of 
its special operations forces units--including 4 special operations 
companies and 12 foreign military training teams to date--and deployed 
these units to conduct special operations missions. However, the 
initial force structure plans for the Command were not developed using 
critical practices of effective strategic planning. According to 
officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, USSOCOM, and the 
Marine Corps, the Secretary of Defense directed that the Marine Corps 
establish a special operations command to meet the growing demand for 
special operations forces in the war on terrorism. The Secretary of 
Defense, with input from the Marine Corps, determined that 2,516 
personnel was an appropriate size for the Command based on the 
assumptions that the Command was to be staffed within the existing 
Marine Corps end-strength, and the establishment of the Command could 
not significantly affect the Marine Corps budget. Marine Corps planners 
then based the composition and number of Marine Corps special 
operations forces units on existing units within the service that had 
trained to perform similar missions in the past. For example, Marine 
Corps officials told us that the force structure plans for its special 
operations companies were modeled after a Maritime Special Purpose 
Force, which had previously trained to conduct some special operations 
missions for conventional Marine Corps units.[Footnote 12] 
Additionally, Marine Corps officials told us the initial force 
structure plan to establish nine special operations companies was based 
on the need to accommodate the deployment schedule of its Marine 
Expeditionary Units. The initial force structure plan also included the 
transfer of the Foreign Military Training Unit from the conventional 
force to its special operations command. Using this existing force 
structure, the Marine Corps planned to establish 24 foreign military 
training teams under its special operations command. 

DOD did not fully incorporate critical practices of effective strategic 
planning when it developed these initial force structure plans for the 
Marine Corps special operations command. We have previously reported 
that strategic planning is important to ensure that an organization's 
activities support its strategic goals. Effective planning principles, 
such as those embodied in the Government Performance and Results Act of 
1993[Footnote 13] and used by leading organizations, require federal 
agencies to set strategic goals and develop strategic plans to 
accomplish those goals. Our prior work has identified several critical 
practices for effective strategic planning, including the alignment of 
activities and resources to meet organizational missions and 
stakeholder involvement. Our prior work has shown that leading 
organizations recognize that an organization's activities, core 
processes, and resources must be aligned to support its mission and 
help it achieve its goals. Organizations should assess the extent to 
which their programs and activities contribute to meeting their mission 
and desired outcomes. In addition, successful organizations base their 
strategic planning, to a large extent, on the interests and 
expectations of their stakeholders. Stakeholder involvement is 
important to help agencies ensure that their efforts and resources are 
targeted at the highest priorities. Just as important, involving 
stakeholders in strategic planning efforts can help create a basic 
understanding among the stakeholders of the competing demands that 
confront most agencies, the limited resources available to them, and 
how those demands and resources require careful and continuous 
balancing.[Footnote 14] 

However, in our review of the planning process that preceded the 
establishment of the Marine Corps special operations command, we found 
the Command's activities and resources were not fully aligned with the 
organization's mission. For example, although the alignment of 
activities and resources to meet organizational missions, a critical 
practice of effective strategic planning, should include an analysis of 
the number of personnel required for an organization to accomplish its 
missions, Marine Corps officials stated that the size of the Marine 
Corps special operations command (2,516 personnel) was not determined 
through an analysis of the Command's assigned missions. Specifically, 
neither the Office of the Secretary of Defense nor the Marine Corps 
conducted a comprehensive, data-driven analysis to determine the number 
of personnel needed to meet the Marine Corps special operations 
command's mission requirements that directly tied the number of 
personnel authorized for the Command with its assigned missions. 
USSOCOM did not provide official mission guidance to the Marine Corps 
until October 2006, almost 1 year after the Command's personnel 
authorizations had been determined. In the absence of specific 
guidance, Marine Corps planners did not conduct a comprehensive, data- 
driven analysis to determine the number of personnel needed to meet the 
Marine Corps special operations command's full range of mission 
requirements. Our prior work has shown that valid and reliable data on 
the number of employees required to meet an agency's needs are critical 
because human capital shortfalls can threaten an agency's ability to 
perform its missions efficiently and effectively.[Footnote 15] 

The alignment of activities and resources should also include an 
analysis of the number and composition of Marine Corps special 
operations forces units. However, the Marine Corps did not determine 
the number and composition of its special operations forces units based 
on specific guidance from USSOCOM. Although the Marine Corps special 
operations command was established as the Marine Corps service 
component under USSOCOM, USSOCOM did not provide guidance to Marine 
Corps planners on the full range of missions assigned to the Command, 
or on the number of special operations forces that the Marine Corps 
needed to provide. Both USSOCOM and Marine Corps officials reported 
that USSOCOM provided only informal guidance to Marine Corps planners 
on the core tasks that would be assigned to Marine Corps special 
operations forces units. According to Marine Corps officials involved 
in the planning for the Marine Corps special operations command, the 
informal guidance did not prioritize the core tasks to focus Marine 
Corps planning efforts, and the guidance did not identify the required 
capacity for specific capabilities within the Command. 

The official guidance that USSOCOM provided to the Marine Corps special 
operations command in October 2006 contained a complete list of 
missions the Command would be expected to perform. However, the 
guidance did not prioritize these missions to focus the Command's 
planning efforts. Additionally, the guidance did not establish 
milestones and benchmarks that the Command could use to determine when, 
and to what level of proficiency, Marine Corps special operations 
forces units should be able to perform all of their assigned missions. 
In the absence of specific guidance, Marine Corps officials told us the 
initial force structure plan to establish nine special operations 
companies was not based on a USSOCOM requirement for the number of 
these companies. Moreover, while the decision to transfer the foreign 
military training teams to the Marine Corps special operations command 
met the Command's mission to provide USSOCOM with a foreign internal 
defense capability, the decision on the number of teams needed by the 
Command to meet USSOCOM's mission requirements was left to the Marine 
Corps. Marine Corps officials also told us that in the absence of clear 
guidance on the required capacity for support personnel within the 
Command, Marine Corps planners prioritized the assignment of personnel 
in warfighter positions in special operations forces units over 
positions in support units. Specifically, because planners were basing 
the Command's force structure decisions on the personnel limit 
established by DOD, the Marine Corps exchanged positions related to 
support functions within the Command for positions in its warfighter 
units. Support functions such as vehicle maintenance, motor 
transportation, intelligence operations, communication support, and 
engineering support provide important and necessary support to Marine 
Corps special operations forces units, as well as other special 
operations forces units in USSOCOM's other service components. 

Furthermore, we found a lack of involvement by some key stakeholders in 
the establishment of the Marine Corps special operations command. For 
example, the special operations components with the department's 
geographic combatant commands--which are responsible for commanding 
special operations forces around the world--were not involved in the 
process to establish the Marine Corps special operations command or in 
the decisions to target the service's resources to their highest 
priorities and mission requirements. Officials with the U.S. Pacific 
Command's special operations command who are responsible for functions 
such as operations and planning told us they provided little input into 
the planning process to help determine how Marine Corps special 
operations forces units should be organized and what capabilities were 
needed in these units to meet the mission requirements of the 
geographic combatant commands. Similarly, officials from the U.S. 
Central Command's special operations command who were responsible for 
operations and planning in that command told us they were not included 
in the planning process that preceded the establishment of the Marine 
Corps special operations command. In particular, officials told us they 
were not involved in the decisions regarding the types of missions that 
Marine Corps special operations forces units would need to perform, 
although as we noted in our July 2006 report on special operations 
forces deployment trends, 85 percent of all fiscal year 2005 special 
operations forces deployments were to the U.S. Central Command's area 
of responsibility.[Footnote 16] 

Limitations in Strategic Planning Process Led to Force Structure 
Challenges, although Plans Are Being Revised to Address These 
Challenges: 

The Marine Corps special operations command has identified several 
force structure challenges that stem from limitations in DOD's 
strategic planning process that will likely affect its ability to 
perform its full range of responsibilities, and the Command is revising 
its force structure plans to address these challenges. For example, the 
Command has determined that the number and composition of its special 
operations forces units are not aligned with the Command's mission 
requirements. In particular, the Command has identified shortages in 
positions such as authorized intelligence personnel, which will affect 
the Command's ability to simultaneously provide intelligence support to 
Marine Corps special operations forces and USSOCOM. Moreover, according 
to Marine Corps special operations command officials, the limited 
number of personnel available to perform support functions will prevent 
the Command from effectively performing all of its mission 
requirements. To illustrate this point, Marine Corps special operations 
command officials told us that the initial force structure plans for 
the Command call for less than one support person available for every 
person assigned to a warfighter position. According to Command 
officials, this ratio is less than what would be expected for a command 
of similar size and assigned missions. Officials said an expected ratio 
for a command such as theirs would be at least two support personnel to 
one warfighter, and therefore their goal is to adjust the force 
structure to meet this ratio. 

In addition, Marine Corps special operations command officials reported 
that the number of positions authorized for support personnel will also 
affect the Command's ability to meet its responsibilities to organize, 
train, and equip Marine Corps special operations forces. Officials 
stated the number of personnel assigned to its command elements, such 
as the headquarters and the staffs of the subordinate units, is 
insufficient to effectively accomplish these responsibilities. Current 
force structure plans authorize approximately 780 military personnel 
and 33 civilian personnel for the Command's headquarters and the staffs 
of its major subordinate units. 

At the time of our work, the Marine Corps special operations command 
was developing several proposals to significantly revise its force 
structure to address the challenges stemming from the limitations in 
the planning process and to better align the Command to meet USSOCOM's 
mission guidance. These revisions would adjust the number and size of 
the Command's warfighter units to better meet mission requirements. 
Additionally, if approved, some of the positions made available through 
the revisions could be used to remedy shortfalls in personnel who 
perform support functions such as personnel management, training, 
logistics, intelligence, and budget-related activities. Command 
officials told us these proposals would likely mitigate many of the 
challenges that have resulted from the lack of a comprehensive 
strategic planning process, but they acknowledged that many of the 
decisions that are needed to implement the force structure changes will 
be made by Headquarters, Marine Corps. In order to move forward with 
its proposals, the Command is working to complete several analyses of 
the personnel and funding requirements that are tied to these proposed 
force structure changes. It has set milestones for when these analyses 
should be completed in order to determine whether any additional 
funding or personnel would be required. However, the Command expects to 
be able to implement these proposals within the funding levels already 
identified and planned for future fiscal years. Until the analyses are 
completed, the Command will be unable to determine whether the approved 
plans for its personnel and funding should be adjusted in order for the 
Command to perform all of its assigned missions. 

Although Preliminary Steps Have Been Taken, the Marine Corps Has Not 
Developed a Strategic Human Capital Approach to Manage the Critical 
Skills And Competencies Required of Personnel in Its Special Operations 
Command: 

Although preliminary steps have been taken, the Marine Corps has not 
developed a strategic human capital approach to manage the critical 
skills and competencies required of personnel in its special operations 
command. While the Marine Corps special operations command has 
identified some skills that are needed to perform special operations 
missions, it has not conducted a comprehensive analysis of the critical 
skills and incremental training required of personnel in its special 
operations forces units. Such analyses are critical to the Marine 
Corps' efforts to develop a strategic human capital approach for the 
management of personnel in its special operations forces units. Without 
the benefit of these analyses, the Marine Corps has developed an 
interim policy to assign some personnel to special operations forces 
units for extended tour lengths to account for the additional training 
and skills needed by these personnel. However, this interim policy is 
inconsistent with the Marine Corps special operations command's goal 
for the permanent assignment of some personnel within the special 
operations community. 

While Some Personnel Requirements Have Been Identified, Marine Corps 
Special Operations Command Has Not Fully Identified the Critical Skills 
and Competencies Required of Its Personnel: 

While the Marine Corps special operations command has identified some 
critical skills and competencies that are needed to perform special 
operations missions, it has not fully identified these requirements 
because it has not yet conducted a comprehensive analysis to determine 
all the critical skills and additional training required of personnel 
in its units. We have previously reported that strategic human capital 
planning is essential to federal agencies' efforts to transform their 
organizations to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Generally, 
strategic human capital planning addresses two needs: (1) aligning an 
agency's human capital program with its current and emerging mission 
and programmatic goals, and (2) developing long-term strategies for 
acquiring, developing, motivating, and retaining staff to achieve 
programmatic goals. Our prior work has shown that the analysis of 
critical skill and competency gaps between current and future workforce 
needs is an important step in strategic human capital 
planning.[Footnote 17] We have also reported that it is essential that 
long-term strategies include implementation goals and timelines to 
demonstrate that progress is being made. 

As part of the effort to identify these critical skills, the Marine 
Special Operations School is developing a training course that will 
provide baseline training to newly assigned personnel to prepare them 
for positions in warfighter units. For example, the Command plans to 
provide these personnel with training on advanced survival skills and 
foreign language in order to prepare them to perform special operations 
missions. However, the Marine Corps special operations command has not 
fully identified and documented the critical skills and training that 
are required for personnel to effectively perform special operations 
missions, and that build on the skills that are developed in 
conventional Marine Corps units. Officials told us the Command had not 
yet identified the full range of training that will be provided in this 
course in order to establish a minimum level of special operations 
skills for the Command's warfighters. Additionally, the Marine Corps 
special operations command has not fully identified the advanced skills 
and training necessary to support some of the Command's more complex 
special operations missions, such as counterterrorism, information 
operations, and unconventional warfare. While the Marine Corps special 
operations command has established a time frame for when it wants to 
conduct the training course under development, it has not set 
milestones for when it will complete its analysis of the critical 
skills and competencies required of its personnel. 

Moreover, the Marine Corps special operations command has not yet fully 
determined which positions should be filled by specially trained 
personnel who are strategically managed to meet the Command's missions. 
Officials told us there is broad agreement within the Command that 
personnel assigned to operational positions in its warfighter units 
require specialized training in critical skills needed to perform 
special operations missions, and should therefore be strategically 
managed to meet the Command's mission requirements. These personnel 
include enlisted reconnaissance and communications Marines assigned to 
the Marine Special Operations Battalions and infantry Marines assigned 
to the Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, as well as some 
officers assigned to these units. At the time of our review, however, 
we found that the Command had not yet determined which additional 
positions should also be filled by personnel who are strategically 
managed. In particular, we were told by officials from the Command's 
headquarters that a determination has not yet been made as to whether 
personnel who deploy with warfighter units to provide critical combat 
support, such as intelligence personnel, require specialized skills and 
training that are incremental to the training provided in conventional 
force units. For example, officials have not yet decided whether 
intelligence personnel should attend the initial training course that 
is under development. However, the Marine Special Operations School 
plans to provide these personnel with specialized intelligence training 
to enable them to support certain sensitive special operations missions 
in support of deploying units. Officials acknowledge that until the 
Command determines the extent to which support personnel require 
specialized skills and training to perform their missions, the Command 
cannot fully identify which positions should be filled by personnel who 
are strategically managed. 

Marine Corps Has Developed an Interim Policy to Manage Personnel in Its 
Special Operations Command, but It Lacks Consensus on a Strategic Human 
Capital Approach: 

To address the personnel needs of the Marine Corps special operations 
command, Headquarters, Marine Corps, has established an interim policy 
that provides for extended assignments of some personnel in special 
operations forces units; however, the absence of a comprehensive 
analysis of the critical skills and training required of personnel in 
special operations forces units has contributed to a lack of consensus 
within the Marine Corps on a strategic human capital approach to manage 
these personnel. The extended assignments apply to Marines who are 
beyond their first term of enlistment, which is typically 3 to 5 years, 
and who are assigned to one of the Marine Corps special operations 
command's warfighter, training, or intelligence units. The policy 
directs that these personnel will be assigned to the Command for 48 
months, in part, to account for the additional training provided to 
personnel in these units. According to officials at Headquarters, 
Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps special operations command, the 48- 
month assignment policy is designed to retain designated personnel 
within special operations forces units long enough to complete at least 
two deployments. All other Marines will be assigned to the Command for 
approximately 36 months, which is a typical tour length for Marines in 
conventional force units. 

The interim policy also addresses a concern that personnel assigned to 
special operations forces units will have opportunities for career 
progression. In general, Marines are managed according to established 
career progression models for their respective career fields. These 
career progression models identify the experiences, skills, and 
professional military education necessary for personnel to be 
competitive for promotion to the next grade. For example, as personnel 
are promoted to a higher grade, they are typically placed in positions 
with increased responsibilities that are consistent with their career 
progression models in order to remain competitive for further 
promotion. The Marine Corps has not established a separate career field 
for special operations forces personnel; instead, the Marine Corps is 
assigning personnel from a variety of career fields, such as 
reconnaissance, to its special operations forces units. However, the 
current structure of the Marine Corps special operations command cannot 
support long-term assignments of personnel within the Command, in some 
cases, due to limited opportunities for progression into positions with 
increased responsibilities. For example, our analysis of the Marine 
Corps special operations command's force structure shows that the 
Command is authorized 76 percent fewer reconnaissance positions for 
personnel in the grade of E-7 as compared to the number of 
reconnaissance positions for personnel in the grade of E-6. The Marine 
Corps has established targets for the promotion of reconnaissance 
personnel to the grade of E-7 after they have spent approximately 5 
years in the grade of E-6. As a result, many reconnaissance personnel 
who are promoted to E-7 while assigned to a special operations forces 
unit will need to be reassigned to the conventional force in order to 
move into an E-7 position and remain competitive for further promotion. 

The interim policy is also consistent with the approved plan to 
increase the authorized end-strength of the Marine Corps. In January 
2007, the President approved plans to increase the active duty end- 
strength of the Marine Corps from 179,000 in fiscal year 2006 to 
202,000 by fiscal year 2011. This plan includes growth in the number 
and size of conventional force units and is intended to reduce the 
stress on frequently deployed units, such as intelligence units, by 
achieving a 1 to 2 deployment to home station ratio for these units. 
Marine Corps officials associated with units that will be affected by 
these increases, such as reconnaissance and intelligence units, told us 
that the rotation of personnel from Marine Corps special operations 
units back into the conventional force is important to help ensure that 
conventional force units are staffed with experienced and mature 
personnel. For example, our analysis of Marine Corps data shows that by 
fiscal year 2009, the Marine Corps will increase the servicewide 
requirement for enlisted counterintelligence/human intelligence 
personnel by 50 percent above fiscal year 2006 levels. Although the 
Marine Corps is adjusting its accession, training, and retention 
strategies to meet the increased requirement for enlisted 
counterintelligence/human intelligence personnel, officials stated the 
rotation of these experienced personnel from the Marine Corps special 
operations command back into the conventional force can help meet the 
increased personnel needs of conventional intelligence units, while 
also ensuring that conventional force units have an understanding of 
special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures. Additionally, 
officials told us the rotation of personnel from special operations 
forces units to conventional force units supports the Marine Corps' 
process for prioritizing the assignment of personnel to units that are 
preparing for deployments to Iraq and other war on terrorism 
requirements. 

Notwithstanding the intended outcome of the interim policy, Marine 
Corps special operations command officials told us that the policy 
might impact the Command's ability to prepare its forces to conduct the 
full range of its assigned missions and that the policy is inconsistent 
with the Command's stated goal for the permanent assignment of 
personnel in its special operations forces units. In congressional 
testimony, the Commander of the Marine Corps special operations command 
specified his goal to develop a personnel management strategy that 
would retain some personnel within the special operations community for 
the duration of their careers. Officials from the Command told us that 
a substantial investment of time and resources is required to train 
personnel in special operations forces units on the critical skills 
needed to perform special operations missions. For example, Marine 
Corps special operations forces personnel will receive in-depth 
training to develop foreign language proficiency and cultural 
awareness, which is consistent with DOD's requirement to increase the 
capacity of special operations forces to perform more demanding and 
specialized tasks during long-duration, indirect, and clandestine 
operations in politically sensitive environments.[Footnote 18] However, 
these officials believe that the Command's ability to develop and 
sustain these skills over time will be hampered if its special 
operations forces units experience high personnel turnover. In 
addition, according to USSOCOM doctrine, personnel must be assigned to 
a special operations forces unit for at least 4 years in order to be 
fully trained in some advanced special operations skills. Consequently, 
officials from the Command have determined that limited duration 
assignments would challenge the Command's ability to develop the 
capability to conduct more complex special operations core tasks, and 
to retain fully trained personnel long enough to use their skills 
during deployments. The Marine Corps special operations command has 
determined that to achieve its goal of permanent personnel assignments 
within the special operations community, it requires a separate career 
field for its warfighter personnel. According to officials from the 
Command, a separate career field would allow the Marine Corps to manage 
these personnel based on a career progression model that reflects the 
experiences, skills, and professional military education that are 
relevant to special operations missions. Moreover, according to 
officials from the Command, the establishment of a special operations 
forces career field would allow the Marine Corps to develop and sustain 
a population of trained and qualified personnel, while providing the 
Command and USSOCOM with a more appropriate return on the investment in 
training personnel to perform special operations missions. 

The Command's goal for the permanent assignment of some special 
operations forces personnel is also consistent with USSOCOM's current 
and projected needs for special operations forces personnel. USSOCOM 
has identified the retention of experienced personnel who possess 
specialized skills and training as a key component in its strategy to 
support the war on terrorism. In its vision of how special operations 
forces will meet long-term national strategic and military 
objectives,[Footnote 19] USSOCOM has identified the need for a 
comprehensive special operations forces career management system to 
facilitate the progression of these personnel through increasing levels 
of responsibility within the special operations community. In addition, 
senior USSOCOM officials have expressed support for an assignment 
policy that allows Marine Corps personnel to remain within the special 
operations community for the duration of their careers. 

Headquarters, Marine Corps, plans to review its interim policy for 
assigning personnel to its special operations command annually to 
determine whether it meets the mission requirements of the Command. 
Additionally, the Commandant of the Marine Corps recently directed 
Headquarters, Marine Corps, to study the assignment policies for 
personnel in certain Army special operations forces units who rotate 
between conventional Army units and special operations forces units. 
According to a Headquarters, Marine Corps, official, one purpose of 
this study is to evaluate whether a similar management strategy may be 
applied to personnel in Marine Corps special operations forces units. 
Notwithstanding these efforts, officials with Headquarters, Marine 
Corps, and the Marine Corps special operations command acknowledge that 
the analysis of the critical skills and training required of personnel 
in the Command's special operations forces units is a necessary step in 
the development of a strategic human capital approach to the management 
of these personnel. Until the Marine Corps special operations command 
completes a comprehensive analysis to identify and document the 
critical skills and additional training needed by its future workforce 
to perform the Command's full range of assigned special operations 
missions, the Marine Corps will not have a sound basis for developing 
or evaluating alternative strategic human capital approaches for the 
management of personnel assigned to its special operations forces 
units. 

USSOCOM Does Not Have a Sound Basis for Determining Whether Marine 
Corps Special Operations Forces Training Programs Prepare Units for 
Missions: 

USSOCOM does not have a sound basis for determining whether Marine 
Corps special operations forces training programs are preparing units 
for their missions because it has not established common training 
standards for many special operations skills and it has not formally 
evaluated whether these programs will prepare units to be fully 
interoperable with DOD's other special operations forces. The Marine 
Corps special operations command has provided training for its forces 
that is based on training that was provided to conventional units that 
were assigned some special operations missions prior to the activation 
of the Command, and by selectively incorporating the training that 
USSOCOM's other service components provide to their forces. However, 
USSOCOM has not formally validated that the training used to prepare 
Marine Corps special operations forces meets special operations 
standards and is effective in training Marine Corps special operations 
forces to be fully interoperable with the department's other special 
operations forces. 

Marine Corps Special Operations Command Has Implemented Programs to 
Train Personnel to Perform Special Operations Missions: 

The Marine Corps special operations command has taken several actions 
to implement programs to fulfill its responsibility for training 
personnel to perform special operations missions. For example, the 
Command operates the Marine Special Operations School, which has 
recently finalized plans for a training pipeline to initially screen 
all of the Marines and Sailors identified for assignment to the Command 
to determine their suitability for such assignments. Once the initial 
screening is completed, personnel who volunteer for assignments in one 
of the Command's warfighter units--such as the Marine Special 
Operations Battalions and the Marine Special Operations Advisor Group-
-will undergo an additional assessment that measures mental and 
physical qualifications. As indicated by the Command's plans, personnel 
who successfully complete this assessment will be provided with 
additional baseline special operations training prior to being assigned 
to one of the Command's warfighter units.[Footnote 20] 

The Marine Special Operations School also provides training to 
personnel in special operations companies. This training consists of 
both classroom instruction and the practical application of specialized 
skills. For example, the school has provided training to personnel in 
skills such as precision shooting, close quarters battle, and special 
reconnaissance techniques. In addition, the school's instructors 
conduct exercises to train the special operations companies on the 
unit's tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as predeployment 
training events, to certify the companies are capable of performing the 
primary special operations missions assigned to these units.[Footnote 
21] 

The Command's Marine Special Operations Advisor Group has also 
developed a comprehensive training program designed to build the 
individual and collective skills required to perform the unit's mission 
to provide military training and advisor support to foreign forces. The 
program includes individual training for skills such as light infantry 
tactics and cultural and language training, as well as training for 
advanced skills in functional areas such as communications, 
intelligence, and medical training. The training program culminates 
with a capstone training event that evaluates the proficiency of 
personnel in mission-essential skills. The training event is used as a 
means of certifying that these units are trained to perform their 
assigned missions. 

In addition, Marine Corps special operations companies and Marine 
Special Operations Advisor Group teams conduct unit training to prepare 
for the missions that will be performed during deployments. According 
to officials with these units, this training is tailored to prepare 
personnel for the specific tasks that will likely be performed during 
the deployment. For example, officials stated that unit training may 
include enhanced language and cultural awareness training for specific 
countries and training in environmental terrains where these units will 
be deployed. 

Marine Corps special operations forces have used conventional Marine 
Corps training standards to prepare personnel and units to conduct some 
special operations missions. Officials with the Marine Corps special 
operations command and its subordinate units told us that its special 
operations forces units have trained personnel in some skills based on 
the training programs for conventional units that were assigned some 
special operations missions prior to the activation of the Command. For 
example, according to Marine Corps policy, the service formerly 
deployed specially organized, trained, and equipped forces as part of 
the Marine Expeditionary Units that were capable of conducting some 
special operations missions, such as direct action operations.[Footnote 
22] Officials with the Marine Corps special operations command and the 
Marine Corps Special Operations Battalions told us that the special 
operations companies have been provided with training for skills such 
as urban sniper, specialized demolitions, and dynamic assault that is 
based largely on the training and standards for these skills that were 
established for conventional Marine Corps forces. 

For other skills, Marine Corps special operations forces personnel have 
reviewed and incorporated the training plans that USSOCOM's Army, Navy, 
and Air Force service components use to prepare their special 
operations forces. Marine Corps special operations command officials 
told us that conventional Marine Corps units are not typically trained 
in many of the advanced skills required to perform some special 
operations missions, such as counterterrorism and unconventional 
warfare. To develop programs to train personnel on the skills required 
to perform these and other special operations missions, Marine Corps 
special operations forces have incorporated the training and standards 
from the training publications of the U.S. Army Special Operations 
Command, the Naval Special Warfare Command, and the Air Force Special 
Operations Command. However, according to a senior USSOCOM official, 
Marine Corps special operations forces have had the discretion to 
select the standards to use when training forces to perform special 
operations skills. 

During our review, we met with servicemembers who had recently 
completed deployments with Marine Corps special operations forces units 
as well as with servicemembers who were preparing for planned 
deployments. In general, these servicemembers told us that they 
believed they were adequately trained and prepared to perform their 
assigned missions. Team leaders with the Marine Special Operations 
Advisor Group, for example, stated that they received sufficient 
guidance to properly plan and execute special operations missions 
during deployments to train and advise foreign military forces. 
However, at the time of our work, the Marine Corps special operations 
companies that participated in the first deployments of these units had 
not yet completed their deployments. As a result, we were unable to 
discuss whether the training that was provided was adequate to fully 
meet their mission requirements. 

USSOCOM Has Not Formally Validated That Marine Corps Training Meets 
Special Operations Forces Standards and Prepares Forces to Be Fully 
Interoperable with Other Forces: 

USSOCOM has not formally validated that the training used to prepare 
Marine Corps forces meets special operations standards and prepares 
forces to be fully interoperable with the department's other special 
operations forces. The Marine Corps special operations command has made 
progress in developing and implementing training programs for Marine 
Corps special operations forces. However, the Command has not used 
common training standards for special operations skills because USSOCOM 
has not developed common training standards for many skills, although 
work to establish common standards is ongoing. USSOCOM officials stated 
the headquarters and the service components are working to develop 
common training standards, where appropriate, because USSOCOM 
recognizes that the service-specific training conducted for advanced 
special operations skills may not optimize opportunities for 
commonality, jointness, or efficiency. In addition, USSOCOM officials 
told us that common training standards would further promote 
departmentwide interoperability goals, address potential safety 
concerns, and provide greater assurances to future joint force 
commanders that special operations forces are trained to similar 
standards. 

Our prior work has shown that the lack of commonality in training 
standards for joint operations creates potentially hazardous conditions 
on the battlefield. For example, we reported in 2003 that the military 
services and the special operations community did not use common 
standards to train personnel to control air support of ground forces. 
In particular, we found that the standards for these personnel in 
special operations units differed among the Army, Navy, and Air Force 
because personnel were required to meet their service-specific training 
requirements, which led to hesitation by commanders in Afghanistan to 
employ some special operations forces personnel to direct air support 
of ground forces.[Footnote 23] In 2005, USSOCOM established minimum 
standards for training, qualifying, evaluating, and certifying special 
operations forces personnel who control air support of ground forces. 

USSOCOM formalized a process in 2006 to establish and validate common 
training standards for special operations skills. As part of this 
process, USSOCOM established a working group comprised of 
representatives from USSOCOM and each service component to determine 
the baseline tasks that define the training standard and the service 
component training requirements for special operations skills. 
According to a USSOCOM official, the working group first identified the 
common training requirements and standards for the skills of military 
free fall and combat dive. In addition, USSOCOM and its service 
components are working incrementally to identify common training 
standards for other special operations skills, such as the training 
required for personnel assigned to combined joint special operations 
task forces.[Footnote 24] However, officials with USSOCOM and the 
Marine Corps special operations command told us the process to 
establish common training standards for applicable special operations 
skills will likely take a considerable amount of time to complete due 
to the number of advanced special operations skills and the challenge 
of building consensus among the service components on what constitutes 
a common training standard. 

Furthermore, USSOCOM has not formally validated whether the training 
used to prepare Marine Corps forces meets special operations standards 
and prepares forces to be fully interoperable with the department's 
other special operations forces. USSOCOM has taken some limited steps 
to evaluate the training provided to Marine Corps special operations 
forces. In November 2006, for example, USSOCOM representatives attended 
a training exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for a Marine 
special operations company that was preparing for an upcoming 
deployment. In addition, USSOCOM representatives observed training 
exercises in February 2007 for Marine Special Operations Advisor Group 
teams that were preparing to deploy. A USSOCOM official told us that 
the purpose of these evaluations was to observe some of the planned 
training tasks and focus on areas where USSOCOM could assist the Marine 
Corps special operations command in future training exercises. However, 
USSOCOM has not formally assessed the training programs used by the 
Marine Corps special operations command to prepare its forces for 
deployments, despite the fact that USSOCOM is responsible for 
evaluating the effectiveness of all training programs and ensuring the 
interoperability of all of DOD's special operations forces. Our review 
of the reports prepared for USSOCOM leadership and provided to Marine 
Corps personnel showed that they did not contain a formal evaluation of 
the training content and they did not provide an assessment of the 
standards used during the training to determine whether the training 
was in accordance with special operations forces standards. 

Officials with the Marine Corps special operations command and its 
subordinate units told us that USSOCOM has not been extensively 
involved in the development of Marine Corps special operations forces 
training programs and the performance standards used to train Marine 
Corps special operations forces. In addition, USSOCOM officials told us 
that a formal assessment of Marine Corps training programs has not 
occurred, and will likely not occur, because the management of the 
Marine Corps special operations command's training programs is, like 
the other service components, a responsibility delegated to the Marine 
Corps component commander. These officials told us the service 
component commander has the primary responsibility for establishing 
training programs and certifying that special operations forces are 
capable of performing special operations missions prior to deployments. 
In addition, a USSOCOM official stated that any training-related issues 
affecting the readiness of special operations forces are identified in 
readiness reports and are discussed during monthly meetings between 
senior USSOCOM leadership and the service component commanders. 
However, without common training standards for special operations 
skills or a formal validation of the training used to prepare Marine 
Corps special operations forces for planned deployments in the near 
term, USSOCOM cannot demonstrate the needed assurances to the 
geographic combatant commanders that Marine Corps special operations 
forces are trained to special operations forces standards and that 
these forces meet departmentwide interoperability goals for special 
operations forces, thereby potentially affecting the success of future 
joint operations. 

Conclusions: 

Since activating a Marine Corps component to USSOCOM, the Marine Corps 
has made considerable progress integrating into the special operations 
force structure, and several Marine Corps units have successfully 
completed deployments to train foreign military forces--a key focus 
area in DOD's strategy for the war on terrorism. The Marine Corps has 
also taken an initial step to meet the unique personnel needs of its 
special operations command. However, it does not have complete 
information on all of the critical skills and additional training 
required of its personnel in special operations forces units. This 
information would enable the Marine Corps to assess the effectiveness 
of its human capital planning to date and build consensus on the 
development of alternative approaches for the management of its 
personnel assigned to special operations forces units. Until the Marine 
Corps develops a strategic human capital approach that is based on an 
analysis of the critical skills and training required of personnel in 
Marine Corps special operations forces units, it may be unable to align 
its personnel with the Marine Corps special operations command's actual 
workforce requirements, which could jeopardize the long-term success of 
this new Command. 

The Marine Corps special operations command faces an additional 
challenge in training its forces to special operations forces standards 
and meeting DOD interoperability goals because USSOCOM has not yet 
established common training standards for many advanced skills. In the 
absence of common training standards, the Marine Corps special 
operations command is training its newly established special operations 
forces units in some skills that were not previously trained in 
conventional Marine Corps units. Unless USSOCOM validates that the 
training currently being used to prepare Marine Corps special 
operations forces is effective and meets DOD's interoperability goals, 
it will be unable to ensure that Marine Corps special operations forces 
are interoperable with other special operations forces in the 
department, thereby potentially affecting the success of future joint 
operations. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

To facilitate the development of a strategic human capital approach for 
the management of personnel assigned to the Marine Corps special 
operations command and to validate that Marine Corps special operations 
forces are trained to be fully interoperable with DOD's other special 
operations forces, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense take the 
following two actions. 

* Direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to direct the Commander, 
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, to conduct an analysis 
of the critical skills and competencies required of personnel in Marine 
Corps special operations forces units and establish milestones for 
conducting this analysis. This analysis should be used to assess the 
effectiveness of current assignment policies and to develop a strategic 
human capital approach for the management of these personnel. 

* Direct the Commander, USSOCOM, to establish a framework for 
evaluating Marine Corps special operations forces training programs, 
including their content and standards, to ensure the programs are 
sufficient to prepare Marine Corps forces to be fully interoperable 
with DOD's other special operations forces. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD generally concurred 
with our recommendations and noted that actions consistent with the 
recommendations are underway. DOD's comments are reprinted in appendix 
II. DOD also provided technical comments, which we incorporated into 
the report as appropriate. 

DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to require the 
Commandant of the Marine Corps to direct the Commander, Marine Corps 
Forces Special Operations Command, to establish milestones for 
conducting an analysis of the critical skills and competencies required 
in Marine Corps special operations forces units and, once completed, 
use this analysis to assess the effectiveness of current assignment 
policies and develop a strategic human capital approach for the 
management of these personnel. DOD stated that the Marine Corps special 
operations command is currently conducting a detailed analysis of the 
critical skills and competencies required to conduct the missions 
assigned to the Command. The department further noted that the Command 
will also fully develop mission-essential task lists, and individual 
and collective training standards in order to clearly state the 
requirements for training and personnel. DOD also stated that USSOCOM 
is providing assistance so that these processes are integrated with 
USSOCOM's development of the Joint Training System, which is mandated 
by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We believe these are 
important steps if fully implemented. We note, however, DOD's response 
does not address the issue of milestones and gives no indication when 
the ongoing analysis will be completed. We believe milestones are 
important because they serve as a means of holding people accountable. 
Furthermore, DOD did not address the need for the Marine Corps to use 
the analysis being conducted by the Command to assess the effectiveness 
of the current assignment policy. Without such an assessment, neither 
the Marine Corps nor DOD will have needed assurances that the current 
Marine Corps policy for assigning personnel to its special operations 
command is providing DOD with an appropriate return on the investment 
the department is making to train Marine Corps special operations 
forces personnel. Moreover, without a strategic human capital approach 
that is based on the comprehensive analysis of the critical skills and 
training required of its special operations forces personnel, the 
Marine Corps may be unable to effectively align its personnel with the 
Marine Corps special operations command's workforce requirements. 

DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to require the 
Commander, USSOCOM, to establish a framework for evaluating Marine 
Corps special operations forces training programs to ensure the 
programs are sufficient to prepare Marine Corps forces to be fully 
interoperable with DOD's other special operations forces. DOD stated 
that USSOCOM is currently implementing the Joint Training System that 
is mandated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 
3500.01D. According to DOD, the Joint Training System will provide the 
framework for USSOCOM to evaluate component training programs to ensure 
special operations forces operational capabilities are achieved. DOD 
also stated that Headquarters, USSOCOM, established the Training 
Standards and Requirements Integrated Process Team to complement the 
Joint Training System, which is focusing on standardizing training for 
individual skills across USSOCOM, and ensuring increased efficiency and 
interoperability. DOD stated that USSOCOM delegates many authorities to 
its service component commanders, including training their service- 
provided forces. DOD further stated that the Marine Corps special 
operations command has established the Marine Corps Special Operations 
School, which is tasked with evaluating all unit training programs to 
assess their combat capability and interoperability with special 
operations forces. While we agree that implementing the Joint Training 
System and standardizing training through the integrated process team 
will help ensure the interoperability of Marine Corps special 
operations forces, according to USSOCOM officials, these efforts will 
likely take several years to complete. We continue to believe that in 
the near term, USSOCOM needs to evaluate the Marine Corps special 
operations forces training programs that are currently being conducted. 
While the Marine Corps has trained its conventional forces in skills 
related to the special operations forces' core tasks of direct action 
and special reconnaissance, it has not traditionally trained its forces 
in other special operations forces core tasks, such as unconventional 
warfare. For this reason, it is incumbent on USSOCOM to validate the 
ongoing training to ensure these new Marine Corps special operations 
forces units are adequately prepared to perform all of their assigned 
missions and are interoperable with DOD's other special operations 
forces. 

We are sending a copy of this report to the Secretary of Defense, the 
Secretary of the Navy, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the 
Commander, United States Special Operations Command. We will also make 
copies available to other interested parties upon request. In addition, 
this report will be made available at no charge on the GAO Web site at 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. If you or your staffs have any 
questions about this report, please contact me at (202) 512-9619 or 
pickups@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional 
Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this 
report. Key contributors to this report are listed in appendix III. 

Signed by: 

Sharon L. Pickup, Director: 
Defense Capabilities and Management: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

To assess the extent to which the Marine Corps special operations 
command (Command) has identified the force structure needed to perform 
its mission, we identified and reviewed Department of Defense (DOD) 
reports related to the department's efforts to increase the size of 
special operations forces by integrating Marine Corps forces into the 
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). These documents included the 
2002 Special Operations Forces Realignment Study, the 2006 Operational 
Availability Study, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, and the 
2006 Unified Command Plan. We analyzed available internal DOD 
documentation such as briefings, guidance, and memoranda that 
identified DOD's plans and time frames for establishing the Marine 
Corps special operations command. We discussed with officials at DOD 
organizations the processes that DOD utilized to determine and 
implement the plans for the new Command. These organizations include, 
but are not limited to, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity 
Conflict; the Joint Staff, Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment 
Directorate; Marine Corps Plans, Policies, and Operations; Marine Corps 
Combat Development Command; and Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve 
Affairs. We also interviewed officials with USSOCOM and the special 
operations components of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific 
Command to determine the role of these commands in the decision-making 
processes. We reviewed prior GAO reports and the Government Performance 
and Results Act of 1993[Footnote 25] that discuss key elements of 
effective strategic planning. We interviewed officials from the Marine 
Corps special operations command to determine the status of the 
Command's efforts to activate Marine Corps special operations forces 
units and discussed the challenges the Command has identified that may 
affect the Command's ability to meet its full range of 
responsibilities. We analyzed documents that describe the Marine Corps 
special operations command's proposals to readjust its force structure 
to overcome its identified challenges. We discussed the status of these 
proposals with officials from the Marine Corps special operations 
command and Headquarters, Marine Corps. However, at the time of our 
review, the Marine Corps special operations command had not finalized 
decisions on proposed changes to its force structure and concepts of 
employment for its special operations forces units. As a result, we 
were unable to assess the extent to which any proposed changes to the 
Command's force structure would mitigate identified challenges and 
specified personnel shortfalls. 

To assess the extent to which the Marine Corps has determined a 
strategic human capital approach to manage the critical skills and 
competencies required of personnel in its special operations command, 
we examined relevant Marine Corps policies for assigning personnel to 
conventional force units and the service's interim policy for assigning 
personnel to special operations forces units. We interviewed officials 
from the Marine Corps special operations command and Headquarters, 
Marine Corps, to discuss the service's career progression models for 
personnel assigned to Marine Corps special operations forces units. We 
also reviewed DOD plans to increase the active duty end-strength of the 
Marine Corps, and interviewed officials from Headquarters, Marine 
Corps, to discuss the service's strategy to meet the personnel needs of 
its special operations forces units and its conventional force units. 
We analyzed the Marine Corps special operations command's planned force 
structure and interviewed officials with Headquarters, Marine Corps, 
and the Marine Corps special operations command to determine the 
challenges the Marine Corps may face in developing a long-term plan to 
assign personnel to its special operations forces units. To better 
understand the unique personnel needs of the Marine Corps special 
operations command, we interviewed officials from the Command to 
discuss the specialized skills and training that are required by 
personnel who are assigned to special operations forces units to 
perform the Command's assigned missions. We reviewed available 
documentation on the current and proposed training plans that identify 
the critical skills and training that will be provided to Marine Corps 
special operations forces personnel, and we interviewed officials with 
the Command to discuss the status of their efforts to fully identify 
all special operations critical skills and training requirements. We 
reviewed congressional testimony by the Commander of the Marine Corps 
special operations command[Footnote 26] and relevant Command planning 
documents to identify the Marine Corps special operations command's 
goal for a human capital plan that supports its assigned missions. We 
examined USSOCOM annual reports and strategic planning documents 
relevant to the Marine Corps special operations command, and 
interviewed USSOCOM officials to discuss the management of special 
operations forces personnel. We also reviewed our past reports that 
discuss effective strategies for workforce planning. 

To assess the extent to which USSOCOM has determined whether Marine 
Corps special operations training programs are preparing these forces 
for assigned missions, we examined relevant laws and DOD doctrine 
related to the responsibilities of the Marine Corps and USSOCOM for 
training special operations forces personnel. We analyzed Marine Corps 
special operations command and USSOCOM training guidance for special 
operations forces. We examined USSOCOM documents related to the 
processes in place to establish common training standards for advanced 
special operations skills, and interviewed officials to discuss the 
status of USSOCOM's efforts to establish common training standards for 
special operations skills. We examined available documents that detail 
training programs for Marine Corps special operations forces. We 
interviewed officials from the Marine Corps special operations command 
and USSOCOM to discuss the processes used to identify and select 
training standards for special operations skills. We collected and 
analyzed documents related to USSOCOM's evaluations of Marine Corps 
special operations forces training, and we discussed the efforts that 
have been taken by the Marine Corps special operations command and 
USSOCOM to assess the effectiveness of these training programs. We 
conducted our work from August 2006 through July 2007 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. Using our 
assessment of data reliability, we concluded that the data used to 
support this review were sufficiently reliable to answer our 
objectives. We interviewed the source of these data to determine how 
data accuracy was ensured, and we discussed their data collection 
methods, standard operating procedures, and other internal control 
measures. 

We interviewed officials and obtained documentation at the following 
locations: 

* Office of the Secretary of Defense: 

* Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations 
and Low Intensity Conflict: 

* Joint Staff: 

* Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment Directorate, J8: 

* U.S. Marine Corps: 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Combat Development Command): 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Installations and Logistics 
Department): 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Intelligence Department): 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Manpower and Reserve Affairs): 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Plans, Policies, and Operations): 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Programs and Resources): 

* U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters (Training and Education Command): 

* Marine Corps Forces Command, Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia: 

* Marine Corps Forces Pacific Command, Camp Smith, Hawaii: 

* I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California: 

* II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina: 

* III Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan: 

* Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command: 

* Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command Headquarters: 

* 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion: 

* 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion: 

* Marine Special Operations Advisor Group: 

* Marine Special Operations Support Group: 

* Marine Special Operations School: 

* U.S. Special Operations Command: 

* U.S. Special Operations Command, Center for Command Support: 

* U.S. Special Operations Command, Center for Special Operations: 

* U.S. Special Operations Command, Center for Special Operations 
Knowledge and Futures: 

* Theater Special Operations Commands: 

* Special Operations Command, U.S. Central Command: 

* Special Operations Command, U.S. Pacific Command: 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Office Of The Assistant Secretary Of Defense: 
Washington, D.C. 20301-2500: 

Special Operations/: 
Low-Intensity Conflict: 

August 13, 2007

Ms. Sharon L. Pickup: 
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, N.W.: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Pickup,

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) response to the GAO Draft 
Report, GAO-07-1030, "Special Operations Forces: Management Actions are 
Needed to Effectively Integrate Marine Corps Forces into the U.S. 
Special Operations Command," dated July 13, 2007 (GAO Code 350908). 

The Department generally concurs with the recommendations, noting that 
actions consistent with the recommendations are underway. DoD 
appreciates the work that has gone into GAO's comprehensive assessment. 
Your objective analysis will enhance the progression of U.S. Marine 
Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC) to full operational 
capability by the end of fiscal year 2008. MARSOC is an evolving 
command, engaged in wartime Special Operations missions while 
continuing to build the processes and institutions needed to fully 
integrate into the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). 

Sincerely,

Signed By: 

Dr. Kalev I. Sepp: 
Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Defense: 
Special Operations Capabilities: 

GAO Draft Report - Dated July 13, 2007: 
GAO Code 350908/GAO-07-1030: 

"Special Operations Forces: Management Actions Are Needed To Effectively
Integrate Marine Corps Forces Into The U.S. Special Operations 
Command":  

Department Of Defense Comments To The Recommendations: 

Recommendation 1: The GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to direct the Commander, 
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, to conduct an analysis 
of the critical skills and competencies required of personnel in Marine 
Corps special operations forces units and establish milestones for 
conducting this analysis. This analysis should be used to assess the 
effectiveness of current assignment policies and to develop a strategic 
human capital approach for the management of these personnel. 

DOD Response: Partially Concur. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations 
Command (MARSOC) is currently conducting a detailed analysis of 
critical skills and competencies required to conduct their assigned 
missions. MARSOC will fully develop Mission Essential Task lists 
(METLs), Collective Training Standards, and Individual Training 
Standards in order to clearly state requirements for training and 
personnel. Headquarters, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), in 
an effort to facilitate this process, has placed a Joint Training 
System (ITS) Specialist at Headquarters, MARSOC to implement this 
program in an integrated fashion with USSOCOM's evolution of the ITS, 
as mandated by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction (CJSC) 
3500.O1D. 

Recommendation 2: The GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command to establish a 
framework for evaluating Marine Corps special operations forces 
training programs, including their content and standards, to ensure the 
programs are sufficient to prepare Marine Corps forces to be fully 
interoperable with DoD's other special operations forces. 

DOD Response: Partially Concur. Headquarters, U.S. Special Operations 
Command (USSOCOM) is currently implementing the CJCSI 3500.01D-mandated 
Joint Training System (JTS). The JTS provides the framework for USSOCOM 
to evaluate component training programs and ensure Special Operations 
Force (SOF) operational capabilities are achieved. Additionally, HQ 
USSOCOM established a Training Standards and Requirements Integrated 
Process Team (IPT) in 2006 (as referenced in the GAO report) to 
complement the ITS. The IPT focuses on individual skills to standardize 
how skill sets are trained across the command, ensuring increased 
efficiency and interoperability. HQ USSOCOM delegates many Title 10 
authorities to component commanders, to include tasks of manning, 
organizing, and training their Service-provided forces. MARSOC has 
quickly established units and systems, to include the Marine Special 
Operations School (MSOS) to meet Title 10 functions. MSOS has been 
tasked with evaluating all unit training programs to assess their 
combat capability and SOF interoperability. MARSOC implemented a 
Recruit, Screen, Assess and Select process in May 2007 to screen 
prospective SOF operators for accession into MARSOC. Over the course of 
the next year, a refined initial training pipeline will be adopted to 
give every Marine assigned to MARSOC the required SOF baseline skills. 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Sharon L. Pickup, (202) 512-9619 or pickups@gao.gov: 

Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact named above, Carole Coffey, Assistant 
Director; Renee Brown; Jason Jackson; David Malkin; Karen Thornton; and 
Matthew Ullengren also made key contributions to this report. 

Footnotes: 

[1] The department's five geographic commands--U.S. Central Command, 
U.S. European Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Pacific Command, and 
U.S. Southern Command--are responsible for U.S. military operations 
within their areas. DOD plans to establish a U.S. Africa Command with a 
full operational capability by the end of fiscal year 2008. 

[2] Examples of existing special operations forces that were placed 
under USSOCOM's control include Army Special Forces and Navy Sea, Air, 
Land (SEAL) units. 

[3] GAO, Special Operations Forces: Several Human Capital Challenges 
Must Be Addressed to Meet Expanded Role, GAO-06-812 (Washington D.C.: 
July 31, 2006). 

[4] The Marine Corps special operations command defines fully 
operationally capable as the organization, training, and equipping of 6 
special operations companies and 16 foreign military training teams. 

[5] Military personnel costs for all servicemembers, including special 
operations forces personnel, are included in the services' budgets. 

[6] The military services delineate their force structure through 
career fields, or occupational specialties, which represent the jobs 
that are necessary to meet their specific missions. 

[7] GAO, Executive Guide: Effectively Implementing the Government 
Performance and Results Act, GAO/GGD-96-118 (Washington, D.C.: June 
1996). 

[8] GAO, DOD Civilian Personnel: Comprehensive Strategic Workforce 
Plans Needed, GAO-04-753 (Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2004). 

[9] Pub. L. No. 99-500, ß 9115 (1986) (codified as amended at 10 U.S.C. 
ß 167). 

[10] Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 3-05, Doctrine for Joint Special 
Operations (Dec. 17, 2003). 

[11] Prior to May 2007, the Marine Special Operations Advisor Group was 
named the Foreign Military Training Unit. 

[12] The Maritime Special Purpose Force was part of the Marine Corps' 
Marine Expeditionary Unit--Special Operations Capable Program. This 
program provided a forward deployed, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task 
Force capable of executing designated maritime special operations, 
among other tasks. The Maritime Special Purpose Force was organized and 
trained using Marine Expeditionary Unit assets to provide a special 
operations-capable force that could be tailored to execute maritime 
special operations missions. 

[13] Pub. L. No. 103-62 (1993). 

[14] GAO/GGD-96-118. 

[15] GAO, A Model of Strategic Human Capital Management, GAO-02-373SP 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 15, 2002). 

[16] GAO-06-812. 

[17] GAO-04-753. 

[18] Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report (February 
2006). 

[19] U.S. Special Operations Command, Capstone Concept for Special 
Operations (2006). 

[20] As discussed previously in this report, the Marine Corps special 
operations command has not fully determined what baseline training will 
be provided to special operations forces personnel or which personnel 
will be required to receive this training. 

[21] In addition to the training exercise to certify these units are 
capable of performing special operations missions, the special 
operations companies also conduct an extensive training program with a 
Marine Expeditionary Unit prior to deployment. 

[22] The Maritime Special Purpose Force was organized and trained using 
Marine Expeditionary Unit assets to provide a special operations- 
capable force that could be tailored to execute a maritime special 
operations mission. 

[23] GAO, Military Readiness: Lingering Training and Equipment Issues 
Hamper Air Support of Ground Forces, GAO-03-505 (May 2, 2003). 

[24] Combined joint special operations task forces are composed of 
special operations units from one or more foreign countries and more 
than one U.S. military department. They are formed to carry out a 
specific special operation or to prosecute special operations in 
support of a theater campaign or other operations. The combined joint 
special operations task force may have conventional units assigned or 
attached to support the conduct of specific missions. 

[25] Pub. L. No. 103-62 (1993). 

[26] Statement of Major General Dennis Hejlik, Commander, U.S. Marine 
Corps Forces Special Operations Command, before the Subcommittee on 
Terrorism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, Committee on 
Armed Services, House of Representatives, January 31, 2007. 

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