Military Personnel:

General and Flag Officer Requirements Are Unclear Based on DOD's 2003 Report to Congress

GAO-04-488: Published: Apr 21, 2004. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 2004.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Brenda S. Farrell
(202) 512-5559
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The Fiscal Year 2003 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Department of Defense (DOD) to assess whether general and flag officer authorizations were sufficient to meet all requirements. GAO's objectives were to determine whether DOD (1) fully disclosed the results of its study in its March 2003 report to Congress and explained the rationale for any recommendations, (2) used an established methodology to meet the objectives of its study, and (3) incorporated lessons learned from a GAO review of DOD's 1997 general and flag officer study. The 2003 act also directed DOD to review legislation affecting general and flag officer management. DOD included the results of its review in the March 2003 report, making several recommendations. GAO plans a separate review of these issues and recommendations.

DOD's March 2003 report to Congress did not fully disclose the results of the general and flag officer study or explain its recommendation not to seek additional authorizations (people) to meet validated requirements (positions). The general and flag officer study validated requirements for general and flag officer positions that exceeded congressional authorizations for both the active and reserve components. However, the validated requirements data generated by the study were not disclosed in the March 2003 report to Congress. In its report, DOD did not address the magnitude of the gap between validated requirements of 1,630 positions and congressional authorizations of 1,311--a difference of 319. DOD's report also did not address the impact of "workarounds" used to fill the gap between requirements and authorizations, such as the practice of assigning colonels and Navy captains to general and flag officer positions. Fully disclosing the study results and discussing the implications of these findings in the March 2003 report to Congress would have provided a more complete picture of DOD's general and flag officer requirements and may have helped to explain its recommendation not to seek additional authorizations. DOD used an established methodology to conduct a position-by-position validation of general and flag officer requirements. This methodology, known as job evaluation, has been widely used in the United States. Job evaluation, however, has numerous subjective features, including the selection of factors used for measurement. In addition, it is not designed to project emerging needs, such as those that could result from transformation efforts. Periodic updates could capture changes in requirements. Such limitations do not invalidate DOD's methodology; however, an explicit acknowledgment and assessment of these limitations would have provided more context for the study results. In addition, the study did not clearly account for dual-hatted positions (where one individual holds more than one position simultaneously) or assess how each service's authorizations were affected by the need to contribute general and flag officers to fill external (joint) positions. Addressing these issues could have enhanced the precision and usefulness of DOD's study. In addition, we noted that while Congress directed DOD to ensure the Reserve Forces Policy Board participated in development of the report's recommendations, the Board played a minimal role in producing DOD's 2003 report. The Board registered strong objections to DOD's recommendation not to seek additional authorizations now to meet validated requirements and to the limited role it played in the process. DOD, in conducting its 2003 general and flag officer study, incorporated some of the lessons learned from a GAO review of DOD's 1997 general and flag officer study. DOD recognized the need to identify general and flag officer positions that could conceivably be converted from the military ranks to the civilian workforce, although it deferred this assessment until after the general and flag officer study was complete. DOD is currently assessing civilian conversion of general and flag officer positions.

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 Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to clarify the magnitude and impact of the gap between DOD's validated requirements for general and flag officers and congressional authorizations. This assessment should include (1) an analysis of the impact caused by the workarounds DOD uses to fill the gap between requirements and authorizations and (2) a more complete explanation of its recommendation not to seek additional authorizations in light of the study results showing that requirements exceeded authorizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation, stating that it would address the impact of the gap and the use of workarounds in a separate study on alternative methods for dealing with the gap in requirements. DOD contracted with a private research organization to identify active and reserve general and flag officer billets that could or should be filled by civilians. This study, completed in July 2005, identified 172 active duty and 15 reserve positions that could be filled by civilians. The study noted that if the 172 active duty positions were filled by civilians, requirements for general and flag officer positions would not exceed authorizations. However, conversion of the 15 reserve positions to civilians would not close the gap on the reserve side. According to a DOD official responsible for general and flag officer management, since that study was completed, the services have begun to take a more integrated "senior leader" approach to filling some leadership positions by selecting either a civilian senior executive, retiree, or general and flag officer based on the qualifications of the individuals available for these positions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to update general and flag officer requirements periodically by identifying, assessing, and validating new general and flag officer requirements that emerge from DOD transformation efforts or other changes in the department.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation, stating that the requirements database is maintained by each of the military services general or flag officer management offices. DOD also stated that current procedures were adequate to update requirements. However, as we noted in our report, the updated requirements were not going through the kind of job evaluation assessment and validation DOD used in its study.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to take steps to enhance the precision and usefulness of the general and flag officer requirements. At a minimum, DOD should more clearly account for all dual-hatted positions in terms of whether each position is dual-hatted for efficiency or out of necessity due to shortages in general and flag officer authorizations. Positions that are dual-hatted out of necessity should be treated as separate positions for purposes of identifying requirements. In addition, to the extent possible, DOD should track service contributions of general and flag officers to external (joint) requirements to assess whether each service's authorizations are sufficient to meet both internal and external requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would review all dual-hatted positions and add the additional information to the requirements database. While DOD stated that it conducted a new review of dual-hatted positions, we could not determine that DOD had updated its requirements database with this new information. DOD also stated that it would closely monitor service participation in the external (joint) arena and that current safeguards mitigate the impact of joint participation. GAO continues to believe that an assessment of whether general and flag officer authorizations are sufficient to meet all requirements necessitates the inclusion of both internal service and external requirements and that this assessment should be made at the service level because Congress has established service-specific authorization levels.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to incorporate the results of the ongoing civilian conversion study in a future update of general and flag officer requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation, stating that it would address the impact of the gap and the use of workarounds in a separate study on alternative methods for dealing with the gap in requirements. DOD contracted with a private research organization to identify active and reserve general and flag officer billets that could be filled by civilians. This study, completed in July 2005, identified 172 active duty and 15 reserve positions that could be filled by civilians. The study noted that if the 172 active duty positions were filled by civilians, requirements for general and flag officer positions would not exceed authorizations. However, conversion of the 15 reserve positions to civilians would not close the gap on the reserve side. According to a DOD official responsible for general and flag officer management, since that study was completed, the services have begun to take a more integrated "senior leader" approach to filling some leadership positions by selecting either a civilian senior executive, retiree, or general and flag officer based on the qualifications of the individuals available for these positions.

    Jul 31, 2014

    Jul 30, 2014

    Jul 28, 2014

    Jul 17, 2014

    Jul 14, 2014

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here