Combating Terrorism:

DOD Efforts to Improve Installation Preparedness Can Be Enhanced with Clarified Responsibilities and Comprehensive Planning

GAO-04-855: Published: Aug 12, 2004. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 2004.

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Terrorist incidents in the United States and abroad have underscored the Department of Defense's (DOD) need to safeguard military personnel and facilities from potential terrorist attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and high-yield explosive devices. In the 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed DOD to develop a comprehensive plan to help guide departmentwide efforts in improving installation preparedness against such attacks. The act also directed GAO to assess DOD's plan. DOD submitted its report to Congress in September 2003. This review addresses two questions: (1) Does DOD's report represent a comprehensive plan that can guide installation preparedness efforts? and (2) What obstacles, if any, hinder DOD's ability to develop and effectively implement a comprehensive approach to installation preparedness?

While DOD's September 2003 report generally met the requirements of the act, it does not represent a comprehensive, results-oriented management plan that could help guide DOD's installation preparedness efforts. For example, the report described annual performance goals that were general in nature and did not have good metrics to gauge progress; it did not describe a comprehensive process and total resources needed to achieve long-term goals; and it did not define an objective and formal process for evaluating results. As a result, it is unclear how improvement goals will be achieved, what resources will be required, or when improvements are expected to be completed. In addition, it did not fully describe the national, regional, and local military response capabilities that will be developed, or how these capabilities will be integrated with local civilian capabilities. As a result, it is unclear how duplication of requirements and redundant capabilities will be avoided. DOD officials attributed the report's limitations to evolving organizational responsibilities, and a lack of resources and guidance. GAO believes that until a more results-oriented, comprehensive plan is developed that clearly articulates the military response capabilities to be developed and integrated with the civilian community, DOD's ongoing initiatives and other opportunities to improve installation preparedness may not be effectively or efficiently implemented. Two obstacles impede DOD's ability to effectively develop a comprehensive approach to implement installation preparedness efforts. First, while a large number of organizations are engaged in efforts to improve installation preparedness, the responsibilities of two newly established organizations--the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and the U.S. Northern Command--are evolving, and the installation preparedness related responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense is not clearly defined. Second, no single entity has been given the authority and responsibility to integrate and manage departmentwide installation preparedness efforts. In discussions with officials at the department, Joint Staff, service and installation levels, there was general agreement that a lack of a single focal point having the appropriate authority and responsibility to integrate overall installation preparedness improvement efforts among the many organizations involved has adversely affected their ability to effectively plan for and manage departmentwide installation preparedness improvements. As a result, DOD has faced difficulties in developing departmentwide standards and concepts of operations and in preparing a comprehensive plan for installation preparedness. Until organization roles and responsibilities are clarified, and an integrating authority is designated, DOD will be limited in its ability to develop a comprehensive approach, promulgate departmentwide guidance, and effectively coordinate ongoing billion-dollar improvement initiatives at the installation level.

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: To develop a more useful plan to guide installation preparedness improvement efforts, and to address barriers that inhibit DOD's ability to develop a comprehensive approach to improve installation preparedness, the Secretary of Defense should require the next update to the plan to fully incorporate results-oriented management principles in the legislatively required elements. Specifically, the plan should contain: (1) long-term goals that explain what results are expected, are results-oriented, and are expressed in a way that allows them to be assessed in terms of achievement; (2) strategies that articulate the processes necessary to achieve the organization's goals and describe how managers are to be held accountable for achieving such goals; (3) annual performance goals that include a schedule with milestones to measure progress toward the long-term goals, and are tangible and measurable; (4) a description of external impediments to achieving the goals and the actions needed to mitigate these impediments; (5) identification of resources, including funding, personnel, and equipment, needed to accomplish the expected level of performance; (6) performance criteria or indicators used to measure progress in achieving goals and objectives; these criteria should be objective and outcome-oriented with specific target levels to meet performance goals; and (7) evaluation plans that are objective and formal assessments of the results, impact, or effects of installation preparedness improvement efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department concurred with the recommendation and said that they will ensure that updates to the comprehensive plan of improving the preparedness of military installations of terrorist incidents addresses the legislatively required elements outlined in the recommendation. DOD issued only one update to the plan, and it did not adequately address this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To develop a more useful plan to guide installation preparedness improvement efforts, and to address barriers that inhibit DOD's ability to develop a comprehensive approach to improve installation preparedness, the Secretary of Defense should clarify the installation preparedness responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and reported that they will designate the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense as the single integrating authority for coordination of worldwide installation preparedness. However, additional information provided by DOD on August 24, 2006, (classified as "for official use only") indicated the intent of this recommendation was not addressed.

    Recommendation: To develop a more useful plan to guide installation preparedness improvement efforts, and to address barriers that inhibit DOD's ability to develop a comprehensive approach to improve installation preparedness, the Secretary of Defense should assign that organization with responsibility for preparing the 2004, 2005, and 2006 updates to the plan, which are required by section 1402 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In their written response, DOD agreed with the recommendation and said that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense will be responsible for updating the comprehensive plan for improving the preparedness of military installations for terrorist incidents as required by Section 1402 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2003. Although one update to the strategy was prepared, additional information provided by the department which is classified as "for official use only" indicates that the intent of this recommendation was not addressed.

    Recommendation: To develop a more useful plan to guide installation preparedness improvement efforts, and to address barriers that inhibit DOD's ability to develop a comprehensive approach to improve installation preparedness, the Secretary of Defense should designate a single integrating authority with the responsibility to coordinate and integrate worldwide installation preparedness improvement efforts at the department, service and installation levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In written response to the recommendation, the Department concurred with the recommendation and said that they will designate a single integrating authority to coordinate worldwide installation preparedness at the Assistant Secretary level. In addition, DOD responded that the charter directive for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense will promulgate responsibility and required authority for worldwide installation preparedness. However, on August 24, 2006, DOD provided additional information classified as "for official use only" that indicated that this action was not taken.

    Recommendation: To develop a more useful plan to guide installation preparedness improvement efforts, and to address barriers that inhibit DOD's ability to develop a comprehensive approach to improve installation preparedness, the Secretary of Defense should require the next update to the plan to clearly describe the military response capabilities that will be developed at the national, regional, and local levels; and how those capabilities will be developed in conjunction with civilian capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would ensure that updates to the comprehensive plan for improving the preparedness of military installations for terrorist incidents addresses the legislatively required elements outlined in the recommendation. The Department also noted that it is of paramount importance that DOD work with other local, state, and federal entities to ensure redundant capabilities are avoided. In addition, they responded that the designation of a single integrating authority for installation preparedness will better enable DOD to plan for the coordination of capabilities with local, state, and federal partners. DOD provided additional information (classified as "for official use only")that indicates the intent of this recommendation was not addressed.

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