Military Training:

Actions Needed to Enhance DOD's Program to Transform Joint Training

GAO-05-548: Published: Jun 21, 2005. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 2005.

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U.S. forces are conducting more complex operations, requiring increased interoperability between the military commands, services, and other organizations. Department of Defense (DOD) planning guidance calls for transforming military training by increasing the jointness in training. The overall intent of DOD's Training Transformation Program is to assure commanders that forces deployed to their theater are not experiencing joint operations for the first time. Therefore, the program's strategic goals focus on providing joint training that meets commanders' needs and links to readiness assessments. Given the significant investment planned in the program and the impact it will have on the military, this report provides a program overview, including (1) DOD's overall management approach and status of key initiatives, and (2) some significant management challenges that have emerged early in the program's implementation.

Currently in its early implementation stages, DOD expects its Training Transformation Program to be fully operational by 2009, when it has established a robust network of training capabilities that are integrated throughout the department to provide enhanced joint individual and unit training focused on combatant commanders' needs and linked to readiness assessments. Thus far, the department has established program accountability and authority by assigning senior leadership management and oversight roles and responsibilities. DOD has also established three training transformation initiatives designed to prepare individuals, units, and staffs for joint operations and to provide enabling tools and processes to carry out missions. The initiatives are being developed incrementally, wherein each initiative matures through the "build a little, test a little" philosophy. DOD plans to complete its first program assessment later this year. One significant challenge that has emerged early and will require continued focus is establishing effective partnerships with program stakeholders via comprehensive communication and coordination to gain their full participation and buy-in to achieve training transformation goals. DOD has taken positive steps to communicate and coordinate with these stakeholders, which include DOD's combatant commanders, services, and training commands, as well as representatives from the Federal departments, agencies, and organizations that comprise the national security interagency community. However, GAO found an inconsistent understanding among some DOD stakeholders of the strategic vision and rationale behind the implementation and development pace of the initiatives. DOD has not assessed its communication and coordination efforts to determine why some stakeholders may not fully understand the overall vision. Similarly, DOD officials have been proactive in engaging external stakeholders in identifying potential joint training opportunities. However, DOD's outreach to the senior-level leadership of external organizations has been limited to date, thus risking their full commitment to future planning and implementation of joint training. Anothersignificant challenge that has emerged early and will require continued focus is developing joint training requirements--and the specific training tasks that support the requirements--that meet combatant command mission needs. Rather than identifying joint training tasks through DOD's established process called the "Joint Training System" that is used to translate combatant command needs into training requirements, the department is developing some joint tasks through a working group process that does not ensure widespread participation by the combatant commands' and services' representatives. As a result, the department risks developing joint training requirements that combatant commands and services may not fully support. Both these challenges, if left unaddressed, have the potential for eroding support among program stakeholders, which in turn places the goals of the Training Transformation Program at risk.

Status Legend:

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  • 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 promote effective partnerships and mitigate the risk of implementing Training Transformation Program components that are not fully supported by the combatant commands, services, and other federal agencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to assess the effectiveness of their communication and coordination efforts of the training transformation initiatives and take additional steps to enhance stakeholders' understanding of the program's goals and initiatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In reviewing DOD's implementation of its Training Transformation Initiative, GAO found an inconsistent understanding among some DOD stakeholders of the strategic vision and rationale behind the implementation and development of the initiatives. Furthermore, GAO found that DOD has not assessed its communication and coordination efforts to determine their effectiveness in providing a common understanding among stakeholders. GAO concluded that until DOD took steps to ensure a common understanding among its joint training stakeholders at all levels, DOD risked not building the necessary partnerships to gain the commitment to fully implement the training transformation initiatives. GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to assess the effectiveness of their communication and coordination efforts of the training transformation initiatives and take additional steps to enhance stakeholders' understanding of the program's goals and initiatives. Based on our work with OSD's Personnel and Readiness office, we have documented a number of actions taken to implement this recommendation. First, DOD's Training Transformation Assessment dated December 2005 included communications as an element and was widely distributed among service, combat commands and other stakeholders. The document provided details on the program's current and future direction. Secondly, OSD has adopted a Strategic Communications Plan for Training Transformation. According to OSD, this plan is designed to improve the services', combatant commanders', non-DOD entities' and the public's understanding of training transformation. To support its plan, DOD has placed additional Support Element personnel within service and combatant command training programs to serve as a liaison to improve communications and further support the goals of the training transformation program. To date, DOD has established and filled 40 support element positions and has plans for 18 more by the end of fiscal year 2007. Lastly, the Joint National Training Capability accreditation process is serving as a mechanism for increasing the communication and interaction between training transformation personnel and service and combatant command training personnel. Currently, DOD has accredited 17 service and combatant command training programs and expects to accredit an additional 9 during 2007.

    Recommendation: To promote effective partnerships and mitigate the risk of implementing Training Transformation Program components that are not fully supported by the combatant commands, services, and other federal agencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to elevate outreach efforts to senior leadership within non-DOD agencies and organizations to ensure these stakeholders' full understanding, buy-in, and commitment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In reviewing DOD's implementation of its Training Transformation Initiative, GAO found that while DOD officials have been proactive in engaging external stakeholders in identifying potential joint training opportunities, their outreach to the senior-level leadership of external organizations has been limited. GAO concluded that without a targeted effort to ensure senior leadership support from non-DOD agency and organization partners, DOD risks not being able to maintain a collaborative environment with its external stakeholders and to implement interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational training outcomes successfully. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to elevate outreach efforts to senior leadership within non-DOD agencies and organizations to ensure these stakeholders' full understanding, buy-in, and commitment. Based on our work with OSD's Personnel and Readiness office, we have documented efforts that have been taken on multiple fronts to improve current and future outreach to the senior leadership of non-DOD agencies and organization partners. First, in an August 2005 memo, the Under Secretary of Defense encouraged the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to expedite actions to implement this recommendation. He recognized in this memo that the Training Transformation Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational Mission Essential Tasks (TIM2) initiative had been established and, even in its early stage, had made progress. Examples of actions by the TIM2 are drafting a DOD policy and guidance on conducting integrated operations with interagency community partners, and meeting with heads of interagency to discuss this directive. They also established a strategy that called for a series of interagency working group meetings to discuss how to meet challenges in this arena. The first three of these meetings took place during the latter half of 2006 and the final two are expected to occur between December 2006 and December 2007. In addition to TIM2 actions, OSD established in May 2006 a Building Partnership Capacity Executive Roadmap that provided a strategy for improved interagency cooperation in joint operations. Specifically, this roadmap established strategies for improving interagency joint training participation and joint operational planning. It established a command/organization responsible for implementing these improvements and specific milestones.

    Recommendation: To promote effective partnerships and mitigate the risk of implementing Training Transformation Program components that are not fully supported by the combatant commands, services, and other federal agencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Forces Command to use the Joint Training System to establish all training requirements at the joint tactical level in order to promote widespread participation and better opportunities for stakeholders' acceptance of the requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to OSD officials, the Joint Staff and members of U.S. Joint Forces Command continue their collaborative work to incorporate joint tactical tasks into the Universal Joint Tasks List. Approximately one third of the nearly fifty original joint tactical tasks, recently renamed to Universal Joint Tasks, submitted during the 25-27 March 2006 Universal Joint Tasks List Working Party conference, were approved for incorporation into the Universal Joint Tasks List. Another approximately one third were edited and resubmitted to the Joint Staff for approval. These are currently going through the approval process. The final third are still under revision at U.S. Joint Forces Command. We will continue to follow-up to determine the status and then close out the recommendation. We have documented 2 further actions the department has taken to implement this recommendation - In October 2006, at the worldwide joint training and scheduling conference, the joint training community agreed that all recommended changes to joint training requirements, including those developed at the joint tactical level by Joint Forces Command will be formally vetted through the universal joint task list task development process. Second, Joint Forces Command has integrated its efforts to develop new or modified universal joint tasks with the Joint Staff's universal joint task list task development process, which is critical to the standardization of joint training requirements for the Joint training system. All previously developed Joint Forces Command tasks have been submitted to the Joint staff for adjudication through the universal joint task list staffing process.

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