Military Training:

DOD Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Manage Encroachment on Training Ranges

GAO-02-614: Published: Jun 11, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2002.

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Senior Department of Defense (DOD) and military service officials have testified that they face increasing difficulties in carrying out realistic training at military installations. There are eight "encroachment" issues that affect or have the potential to affect military training and readiness. The eight encroachment issues are: endangered species habitat on military installations, unexploded ordnance and munitions constituents, competition for radio frequency spectrum, protected marine resources, competition for airspace, air pollution, noise pollution, and urban growth around military installations. Whenever possible, the services work around these issues by modifying the timing, tempo, and location of training, as well as the equipment used. However, these workarounds are becoming increasingly difficult and costly and they compromise the realism essential to effective training. Over time, the military services report they have increasingly lost training range capabilities because of encroachment. Each of the four installations and two major commands GAO visited reported having lost some capabilities in terms of the time training ranges were available or the types of training that could be conducted. Higher-than-average population growth around installations makes further encroachment losses likely. Despite the loss of some capabilities, service readiness data do not indicate the extent to which encroachment has significantly affected reported training readiness. Although encroachment workarounds may affect costs, the services have not documented the overall impact of encroachment on training costs. The services face difficulties in fully assessing the impact of training ranges on readiness because they have not fully defined their training range requirements and lack information on the training resources available to support those requirements. DOD officials recognize the need for a comprehensive plan of administrative actions and legislative proposals to address encroachment issues but have not yet finalized a plan for doing so.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Title III, section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 required that the Secretary of Defense develop a comprehensive plan to address the sustainability of military training ranges. In 2005, OSD issued such a plan that provided general goals, actions, and milestones, but lacked some critical elements of a meaningful plan, such as explicit performance metrics to measure progress. DOD officials told us that development of the plan was a long-term effort and that additional time was needed to complete this effort. In addition, the military services have undertaken a number of planning actions to address the sustainability of their ranges. For example, the Navy and Marine Corps have started to develop local management plans for their training ranges that, among other things, provide a strategic vision for range operations and identify capability shortfalls. In addition, the Army recently started developing standardized local range plans; the Air Force is creating a management system, scheduled to be operational in 2007, to develop plans for its ranges; and several local range offices across the services have started to develop plans to address the sustainability of their training ranges.

    Recommendation: While Congress considers the department's legislative proposals, the Secretary of Defense should finalize a comprehensive plan for administrative actions that includes goals, timelines, projected costs, and a clear assignment of responsibilities for managing and coordinating the department's efforts to address encroachment issues on military training ranges.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD Directive 3200.15, "Sustainment of Ranges and Operating Areas" dated Jan. 10, 2003, requires the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to ensure that inventories of training ranges and operating areas are completed, updated every 5 years, and maintained in a Geographic Information System (GIS) readily accessible by installation and range decisionmakers. In addition, DOD has developed a common range scheduling tool that interfaces with 12 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force ranges and simulation sites, providing a near-real time display of scheduling and resource information. Also, the Marine Corps has developed an active, centralized training range Web site that provides both general and detailed information about each of its ranges, allows commanders from any military service to schedule their training events remotely, and provides photos and video footage of some ranges to assist potential users in scheduling and designing their training events. At the same time, the Army and Marine Corps have jointly developed several information systems and decision tools that support cross-service utilization of both Marine Corps and Army training ranges. While the Navy and Air Force do not have similar Web-based inventories, they have worked together on the development and application of an aviation range safety software application. Additionally, the Navy's Southern California Offshore Range has developed an information management system that allows its users to complete a number of tasks, such as tracking the causes of modified or cancelled training and reporting range deficiencies.

    Recommendation: While Congress considers the department's legislative proposals, the Secretary of Defense should create a DOD data base that identifies all ranges available to the department and what they offer, regardless of service ownership, so that commanders can schedule the best available resources to provide training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD Directive 3200.15, "Sustainment of Ranges and Operating Areas" dated Jan. 10, 2003, requires the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to ensure that inventories of training ranges and operating areas are completed, updated every 5 years, and maintained in a Geographic Information System (GIS) readily accessible by installation and range decisionmakers. Also, all of the military services have completed inventories of their training ranges and continue to work on identifying their training range capacities, capabilities, and training requirements.

    Recommendation: While Congress considers the department's legislative proposals, the Secretary of Defense should require the services to develop and maintain inventories of their training ranges, capacities, and capabilities, and fully quantify their training requirements considering complementary approaches to training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD's 2006 annual sustainable ranges report, an Overarching Integrated Product Team, as the department's coordination forum for developing strategies to preserve military training ranges, reports regularly to the Senior Readiness Oversight Council on sustainable ranges issues. In addition, a DOD-wide Working Integrated Product Team meets least 6 times a year to discuss sustainable ranges issues and to report these issues to the Senior Readiness Oversight Council. Some of the recent initiatives presented to the Council include the establishment of a Sustainable Ranges Working Group, which is composed of OSD and Service representatives, and the development of action plans to address encroachment issues that have potentially significant readiness implications. To address Congressional interest, DOD reports annually to Congress on the operational condition of its training ranges and sustainment requirements in compliance with Section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003. DOD issued its most recent annual report to Congress on February 17, 2006.

    Recommendation: While Congress considers the department's legislative proposals, the Secretary of Defense should develop a reporting system for range sustainability issues that will allow for the elevation of critical training problems and progress in addressing them to the Senior Readiness Oversight Council for inclusion in Quarterly Readiness Reports to Congress as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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