Military Personnel:

DOD Needs to Address Long-term Reserve Force Availability and Related Mobilization and Demobilization Issues

GAO-04-1031: Published: Sep 15, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 2004.

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Over 335,000 reserve members have been involuntarily called to active duty since September 11, 2001, and the Department of Defense (DOD) expects future reserve usage to remain high. This report is the second in response to a request for GAO to review DOD's mobilization and demobilization process. This review specifically examined the extent to which (1) DOD's implementation of a key mobilization authority and personnel polices affect reserve force availability, (2) the Army was able to execute its mobilization and demobilization plans efficiently, and (3) DOD can manage the health of its mobilized reserve forces.

DOD's implementation of a key mobilization authority to involuntarily call up reserve component members and personnel policies greatly affects the numbers of reserve members available to fill requirements. Involuntary mobilizations are currently limited to a cumulative total of 24 months under DOD's implementation of the partial mobilization authority. Faced with some critical shortages, DOD changed a number of its personnel policies to increase force availability. However, these changes addressed immediate needs and did not take place within a strategic framework that linked human capital goals with DOD's organizational goals to fight the Global War on Terrorism. DOD was also considering a change in its implementation of the partial mobilization authority that would have expanded its pool of available personnel. This policy revision would have authorized mobilizations of up to 24 consecutive months without limiting the number of times personnel could be mobilized, and thus provide an essentially unlimited flow of forces. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD stated that it would retain its current cumulative approach, but DOD did not elaborate in its comments on how it expected to address its increased personnel requirements. The Army was not able to efficiently execute its mobilization and demobilization plans, because the plans contained outdated assumptions concerning the availability of facilities and support personnel. For example, plans assumed that active forces would be deployed abroad, thus vacating facilities when reserves were mobilizing and demobilizing but reserve forces were used earlier and active forces had often not vacated the facilities. As a result, some units were diverted away from their planned mobilization sites, and disparities in housing accommodations existed between active and reserve forces. Efficiency was also lost when short notice hampered coordination efforts among planners, support personnel, and mobilizing or demobilizing reserve forces. To address shortages in housing and other facilities, the Army has embarked on several construction and renovation projects without updating its planning assumptions regarding the availability of facilities. As a result, the Army risks spending money inefficiently on projects that may not be located where the need is greatest. Further, the Army has not taken a coordinated approach evaluating all the support costs associated with mobilization and demobilization at alternative sites in order to determine the most efficient options for the Global War on Terrorism. DOD's ability to effectively manage the health status of its reserve forces is limited because its centralized database has missing and incomplete health records and it has not maintained full visibility over reserve component members with medical problems. For example, the Marine Corps did not send pre-deployment health assessments to DOD's database as required, due to unclear guidance and a lack of compliance monitoring. The Air Force has visibility of involuntarily mobilized members with health problems, but lacks visibility of members with health problems who are on voluntary orders. As a result, some personnel had medical problems that had not been resolved for up to 18 months, but the full extent of this situation is unknown.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG closed this recommendation noting that the Army and the Air Force had automated their pre- and post-deployment health assessments and the Navy and Marine Corps had established requirements for electronic submission.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the service secretaries, to set a timeline for the military departments to electronically submit pre-and post-deployment heath assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Commandant of the Marine Corps issued updated guidance and the Marine Corps moved to electronic capture of health assessments.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to establish a mechanism for overseeing submission of pre- and post-deployment assessments to the centralized database.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG closed this recommendation based on a message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps related to the deployment health assessment quality assurance program. It was also noted that the Marine Corps has moved from paper submission of assessments to electronic submission.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to issue updated mobilization guidance that specifically lists the requirement to submit pre-deployment health assessments to the Army Medical Surveillance Activity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has updated its list of primary and secondary mobilization and demobilization sites and has made extensive facility improvements such as those that were necessary to turn Camp Shelby, MS into a primary mobilization site.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to, within the context of establishing DOD's strategic framework for force availability, develop a coordinated approach to evaluate all the support costs associated with mobilization and demobilization at alternative sites--including both facility (construction, renovation, and maintenance) and support personnel (reserve component, civilian, contractor, or a combination) costs--to determine the most efficient options; and then update the list of primary and secondary mobilization and demobilization sites as necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG closed this recommendation based on the Army's updates to the Army Mobilization Planning and Execution System (AMOPES). AMOPES is an integrated planning and execution system that provides a single source for policies, procedures, and planning guidance for all levels of mobilization. According to the DODIG the planning assumptions that were on the shelf at the outbreak of the Global War on Terrorism and used prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom were updated to reflect changes to mobilization strategies and policies and AMOPES was published electronically on Army Knowledge Online (AKO) and also place on the HQDA mobilization website.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to, within the context of establishing DOD's strategic framework for force availability, update mobilization and demobilization planning assumptions to reflect the new operating environment for the Global War on Terrorism--long-term requirements for mobilization and demobilization support facilities and personnel and the likelihood that active forces will continue to rotate through U.S. bases while reserve component forces are mobilizing and demobilizing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG closed this recommendation based on the QDR strategy, which it said called for the department and military services to carefully distribute skills among the four elements of the Total Force (active component, reserve component, civilians, and contractors) to optimize their contributions across the range of military operations from peace to war. It also noted that over the past several years the military departments have been rebalancing--shifting, transferring, or eliminating--positions within or between the active and reserve components. While the QDR was helpful in moving the department in the direction of this recommendation, it was not until March of 2007 that the recommendation was more fully implemented. On January 19, 2007, the Secretary of Defense issued a total force policy memorandum. This memorandum along with OSD's March 15, 2007, implementing provided an integrated approach for meeting the department's long-term requirements and addressed the full range of policy issues that had previously been addressed in a piecemeal fashion.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the service secretaries and Joint Staff, to identify personnel policies that should be linked within the context of the strategic framework.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG closed this recommendation based on the FY 2005 QDR, which it said related to the department's strategic framework for setting human capital goals and the use of reserve forces. While the QDR was helpful in moving the department in the direction of this recommendation, the recommendation was more fully implemented in January 2007 when the Secretary of Defense issued his total force guidance. This guidance established rotational goals for the availability of reserve component forces, and made reserve component forces available for repeated deployments. It also rescinded the policy which had limited reserve component mobilizations to 2-years cumulative time. In March of 2007, OSD issued implementing guidance that further clarified the Secretary's total force guidance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the service secretaries and Joint Staff, to develop a strategic framework that sets human capital goals concerning the availability of its reserve component forces to meet the longer-term requirements of the Global War on Terrorism under various mobilization authorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG closed this recommendation based on a series of actions that have been taken at different levels throughout the Air Force. First, from a policy perspective the Air Force is converting mobilized volunteers to "h coded" MPA orders once they have been identified as having a disqualifying medical condition. Second, the two largest major commands--the Air Mobility Command and the Air Combat Command--, which account for over 90 percent of reserve component medical holdover cases have set up case management offices to track individuals who are being maintained on voluntary active duty orders for disqualifying medical conditions. Other commands will track these cases through their Directorate of Personnel or Surgeon General offices. Finally, the Air Force Reserve Command has taken steps to expedite line of duty investigations, which will allow individuals to progress swiftly into the medical evaluation board process, as appropriate.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a mechanism for tracking reserve component members who are on voluntary active duty orders with medical problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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