Defense Space Activities:

Organizational Changes Initiated, but Further Management Actions Needed

GAO-03-379: Published: Apr 18, 2003. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 2003.

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In January 2001, the congressionally chartered Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization--known as the Space Commission--reported that the Department of Defense (DOD) lacked the senior-level focus and accountability to provide guidance and oversight for national security space operations. Congress mandated that GAO provide an assessment of DOD's actions to implement the Space Commission's recommendations. Thus, GAO (1) updated its June 2002 assessment of DOD's actions to address the Space Commission's recommendations, (2) ascertained progress in addressing other long- term management concerns, and (3) assessed the extent to which DOD has developed a results-oriented management framework for space activities.

Since June 2002 when we reported that DOD intended to implement 10 of the Space Commission's 13 recommendations to improve the management and organization of space activities and had completed implementation of 6, DOD has completed action on 3 more recommendations. The only action intended but not completed at the conclusion of our work is designation of the Air Force as the executive agent for DOD space programs. Most of the changes represent organizational actions to improve DOD's ability to manage space. For example, DOD has: (1) created a focal point for integrating DOD space activities by appointing the Under Secretary of the Air Force also as Director, National Reconnaissance Office; (2) realigned Air Force space activities under one command; and (3) created a separate position of Commander, Air Force Space Command, to provide increased attention to the organization, training, and equipping for space operations. It is too early to assess the effects of these organizational changes because new institutional roles, processes, and procedures are still evolving. DOD still faces challenges in addressing long-term management problems, such as increasing its investment in innovative space technologies, improving the timeliness and quality of acquisitions, and developing a cadre of space professionals. DOD has initiated some actions to address these concerns, such as increasing resources for research on space technology and developing a new acquisition process, and the services have begun some plans for developing space professionals. However, most planned actions are not fully developed or implemented. Further, DOD has not developed an overarching human capital strategy for space that would guide service plans to ensure all requirements for space professionals are met. DOD does not have a comprehensive, results-oriented management framework for space activities. The Air Force is developing some policies and guidance that could be part of a management framework for space activities. However, we did not have access to the draft documents to determine whether they will contain results-oriented elements--such as a strategy, performance goals and measures, and timelines--that will enable DOD to better focus its efforts and assess its progress in attaining its space goals. Further, no single department-level entity has been charged with providing oversight of the Air Force's management of its executive agent for space responsibilities to assess its progress in achieving space goals while ensuring that all services' requirements for space capabilities are fairly considered.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the Department of Defense agreed with the recommendation, no oversight entity has been designated to assess the progress of DOD's executive agent for achieving goals for space activities.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of national security space activities, the Secretary of Defense should designate an oversight entity in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to periodically assess the progress of DOD's executive agent in achieving goals for space activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD decided against including performance measures in its annual report.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of national security space activities, the Secretary of Defense should include performance goals and measures for space activities in DOD's next departmentwide performance report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with the recommendation, and has issued a new national security space policy. However, it has not required the executive agent for space to develop a comprehensive strategy for managing space assets to achieve goals or timelines or performance measures.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of national security space activities, the Secretary of Defense should require the executive agent for DOD space to develop a comprehensive management framework for space activities that includes a results-oriented national security space strategy tied to overall department-level space goals, time lines, and performance measures to assess space activities' progress in achieving national security space goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force and Navy have issued the human capital strategies we recommended. Although the Army has not yet issued its strategy, it has taken steps to develop a strategy, such as identifying the skills and personnel that should be included in its space workforce, and is working toward issuing a comprehensive strategy.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of national security space activities, the Secretary of Defense should require the executive agent for DOD space, in conjunction with the services, to establish a departmentwide space human capital strategy that includes goals and time lines to develop and maintain a cadre of military and civilian space professionals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially agreed with the recommendation, which was reworded to address the agency's concerns. The Air Force and the Navy have developed and approved space human capital strategies. The Army is has taken some steps toward developing a human capital strategy, such as identifying the personnel with space education or experience and in improving space issue training. The Army is taken steps to develop a human capital strategy, although it has not yet issued a comprehensive strategy

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to review, and as necessary, adjust service cadre plans to ensure they are linked to the department's space human capital strategy when completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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