Kosovo Air Operations:

Combat Aircraft Basing Plans Are Needed in Advance of Future Conflicts

GAO-01-461: Published: May 29, 2001. Publicly Released: May 29, 2001.

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Following the failure of peace talks and escalating violence against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the United States provided military support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) combat operations against Yugoslavia in March 1999. This report reviews how well the United States was prepared for basing its combat aircraft during this operation, called Operation Allied Force. Specifically, GAO determines (1) whether plans were in place to determine where and how to deploy combat aircraft for an operation like Allied Force, (2) how combat aircraft basing decisions were coordinated among the services and allied nations, and (3) whether the United States had the necessary international agreements in place to enable it to quickly execute plans for such an operation. GAO found that the United States had no specific and detailed advanced plans that could be used to determine where and how to deploy its combat aircraft during Operation Allied Force because it was a combination of peacetime and combat operations. Overall plans for operations in defense of NATO members did not apply to this conflict. Although part of the U.S. European Command's mission is to plan for NATO conflicts, the Command had no prepared plan that could be applied to the conflict in Kosovo. Neither the U.S. European Command nor any U.S. military service coordinated combat aircraft basing decisions for all the U.S. service components and for all allies. The U.S. European Command serves as the focal point for American support to NATO, but the services generally planned their own deployments. Finally, the United States had general agreements with most countries involved in Operation Allied Force to cover the legal status and protections of U.S. citizens. However, the United States did not have more specific agreements with many countries on such issues as which host countries would provide what airfield access and what rates would be charged for the logistics services provided.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of the European Command to develop the most detailed combat aircraft basing plans possible for future conflicts, like Operation Allied Force, that do not fit into the category of a major theater war or a peacekeeping operation. These plans should consider existing NATO plans and entail the appropriate coordination between DOD and the Department of State. They should address the development of a strategy for basing aircraft that is tied to probable future threats.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. While developing plans for every possible contingency throughout Europe would be impractical, both the European Command and NATO now recognize that better planning is needed for the more likely contingencies and have done this.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of the European Command to develop the most detailed combat aircraft basing plans possible for future conflicts, like Operation Allied Force, that do not fit into the category of a major theater war or a peacekeeping operation. These plans should consider existing NATO plans and entail the appropriate coordination between DOD and the Department of State. They should address the coordination of all service and host nation arrangements for basing their aircraft during contingencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD now addresses coordination of all service and host nation arrangements for basing aircraft during contingencies as part of the deliberate planning process as they do when negotiating Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of the European Command to develop the most detailed combat aircraft basing plans possible for future conflicts, like Operation Allied Force, that do not fit into the category of a major theater war or a peacekeeping operation. These plans should consider existing NATO plans and entail the appropriate coordination between DOD and the Department of State. They should address maintaining a database of complete information on available airfields in U.S. European Command's area of responsibility and providing this information to all the services as needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. U.S. Air Force, Europe developed a database using its Site Survey Tool for Employment Planning and Base Capability Assessment Tool to collect information on over 170 locations. This tool will better prepare U.S. combat planes for any future European conflict.

    Recommendation: To ensure that U.S. forces have access to airfields and bases from which they will need to conduct operations in likely future conflicts, the Secretary of Defense should direct U.S. European Command's Commander to work with the Department of State to finalize as many supplemental agreements with host nations as possible. These supplemental agreements should include provisions exempting the United States from being charged overflight, airfield access, and aircraft landing and parking fees. These supplemental agreements should also include a provision stating that U.S. troops should be charged rates for logistics supplies that are comparable to the rates charged the host nation's own armed forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. There are 26 Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreements that have already been negotiation within EUCOM's area of responsibility and 6 additional agreements with NATO Maintenance & Supply Agency to provide a mechanism that assures access for the United States military to supplies and services at rates comparable to the nation's own armed forces. Joint Staff, OSD, DOS, and EUCOM regularly collaborate on development and maintenance of such agreements as part of the deliberate planning process. In addition, USAFE has collected information on over 170 locations through use of its Site Survey Tool for Employment Planning & Base Capability Assessment Tool.

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