Reserve Forces:

An Integrated Plan Is Needed to Address Army Reserve Personnel and Equipment Shortages

GAO-05-660: Published: Jul 12, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 2005.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) cannot meet its global commitments without continued reserve participation. The Army Reserve provides critical combat support and combat service support units, such as medical and transportation units, to the Army. While Army Reserve members historically could expect to train one weekend a month and 2 weeks a year with activations for limited deployments, since September 11 some have been called upon to support ongoing military operations for a year or more. GAO (1) identified the challenges the Army Reserve faces in continuing to support overseas operations and (2) assessed the extent to which the Army and Army Reserve have taken steps to improve the Army Reserve's readiness for future missions.

While the Army Reserve has provided ready forces to support military operations since September 11, 2001, GAO found that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Army Reserve to continue to provide these forces due to personnel and equipment shortages. The three primary causes of these shortages are (1) the practice of not maintaining Army Reserve units with all of the personnel and equipment they need to deploy, (2) current DOD and Army personnel policies that limit the number of reservists and length of time reservists may be deployed, and (3) a shortage of full-time support staff to develop and maintain unit readiness. These challenges are compounded by emerging recruiting shortfalls. The Army and Army Reserve have recently begun several initiatives to improve the Army Reserve's readiness and provide more deployment predictability for its soldiers; however, the Army lacks a comprehensive management strategy for integrating the initiatives to ensure that each initiative most efficiently contributes to the achievement of its overall readiness and predictability goals. One of the Army Reserve's major initiatives has been to develop a rotational force model. However, the model cannot be fully implemented until the Army determines the types and number of Army Reserve units it will need to carry out its plans to restructure into a more modular and flexible force. Because the Army has not defined what personnel, units, and equipment the Army Reserve will need under the new modular and rotational models, it cannot be assured that its initiatives are most efficiently working together to meet readiness goals and that funding is appropriately targeted to meet those goals. Until plans that integrate the initiatives are completed and approved and adequate resources are provided to implement them, the Secretary of Defense and the Congress will continue to lack assurance that DOD has an effective and efficient plan for resolving the Army Reserve's growing challenges.

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: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in conjunction with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to develop an implementation plan for a force rotation model for the Army Reserve that describes the funding the Army Reserve will need to support its transition to a rotational force.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has established a task force to develop a plan for implementing transition of the Army's reserve components to an operational force from the previous role of a strategic reserve. The task force identified initial estimates, but it has not developed an implementation plan and budgeted for activities associated with the transition. The Army plans to include activities in the FY 12 budget and FY12-17 Future Years Defense Program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in conjunction with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to develop an implementation plan for a force rotation model for the Army Reserve that describes the types and numbers of units that should be available for deployment during each year.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has developed a rotational force generation model and plans to include funding for transitioning the reserve components to this model in its FY 2012 - 17 Future Years Defense Plans. It has established a task force to develop an implementation plan to transition the reserve components to an operational force. However, until demand for forces eases, the Army will be challenged to implement the rotational force generation model it intends to implement.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to define the end state of the units, personnel, skills, and equipment the Army Reserve will need to fit into the Army's modular force and develop a detailed plan to ensure that the ongoing diverse initiatives collectively support the desired outcome of improved readiness and predictable deployments within current and expected resource levels. The plan should, at a minimum, include identification of resources needed to implement each of the Army's and the Army Reserve's initiatives to improve the Army Reserve's readiness.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has taken actions to address the intent of the recommendation. Specifically, it has developed a strategic-level plan that sets out readiness goals for the reserve component, although it has not yet developed detailed plans for resourcing its initiatives to improve the Army Reserve's readiness. It has also created a task force to identify funding needs, and expects to include this funding in its fiscal year 2012 budget and future years' investment plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to define the end state of the units, personnel, skills, and equipment the Army Reserve will need to fit into the Army's modular force and develop a detailed plan to ensure that the ongoing diverse initiatives collectively support the desired outcome of improved readiness and predictable deployments within current and expected resource levels. The plan should, at a minimum, include a reassessment of the Army Reserve's requirement for full-time staffing support given its new operational role.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has commissioned a new study of full time support requirements to be completed Nov. 2009.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to define the end state of the units, personnel, skills, and equipment the Army Reserve will need to fit into the Army's modular force and develop a detailed plan to ensure that the ongoing diverse initiatives collectively support the desired outcome of improved readiness and predictable deployments within current and expected resource levels. The plan should, at a minimum, include a method of assessing the progress and effectiveness of the initiatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Army has developed a strategic-level plan that sets out readiness goals for the reserve component, but it has not yet developed detail plans to define personnel, skills, and equipment the Army Reserve will need in the Army's planned modular force that should serve as a baseline for measuring the progress of initiatives to improve readiness.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to define the end state of the units, personnel, skills, and equipment the Army Reserve will need to fit into the Army's modular force and develop a detailed plan to ensure that the ongoing diverse initiatives collectively support the desired outcome of improved readiness and predictable deployments within current and expected resource levels. The plan should, at a minimum, include a process for coordinating the implementation steps and time frames of the different initiatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army stated that its progress is measured through an established set of metrics defined in the Army Campaign Plan.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to define the end state of the units, personnel, skills, and equipment the Army Reserve will need to fit into the Army's modular force and develop a detailed plan to ensure that the ongoing diverse initiatives collectively support the desired outcome of improved readiness and predictable deployments within current and expected resource levels. The plan should, at a minimum, include an assessment of the types and numbers of units that the Reserve needs in its force structure to support future Army and joint missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army agreed with the recommendation. DOD has closed the recommendation with the completion of the Army Analysis 08-13, which reviewed requirements for reserve forces based on the new modular transformation and the Army's approved end strength and the issuance of The Army Campaign Plan.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in conjunction with the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief, Army Reserve; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to develop an implementation plan for a force rotation model for the Army Reserve that describes the readiness levels for each phase of the rotation, including a description of the associated levels of personnel and equipment and the strategy for providing them, and how readiness will be evaluated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Army Army has not yet decided the levels of personnel and equipment associated with each phase of the rotational cycles of the cyclical force generation model it has designed.

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