Defense Logistics:

DOD Has Begun to Improve Supply Distribution Operations, but Further Actions Are Needed to Sustain These Efforts

GAO-05-775: Published: Aug 11, 2005. Publicly Released: Aug 11, 2005.

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Problems in the supply distribution system dating back to the Persian Gulf War have impeded the ability of the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide effective and timely logistics support to the warfighter. DOD has taken actions to improve the distribution system by assigning new organizational responsibilities, including designating U.S. Transportation Command as the "Distribution Process Owner" (DPO); issuing a new logistics transformation strategy; and undertaking specific improvement initiatives. GAO's objectives were to (1) assess DOD's organizational structure and transformation strategy to improve the distribution system and (2) determine the status of, and timelines for completing, specific DOD distribution initiatives. agreed with the latter two.

Although DOD has made progress in addressing supply distribution problems, the department's ability to make coordinated, systemic improvements that cut across the multiple organizations involved in the distribution system is stymied because of problems in defining who has accountability and authority for making such improvements and because the current strategy to transform logistics does not provide a clear vision to guide and synchronize future distribution improvement efforts. The U.S. Transportation Command developed a draft directive to define the DPO role, but no directive has been approved or issued almost 2 years later because of disagreement with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) concerning the Secretary's intent in designating the DPO. Whereas the Command asserted that the Secretary intended for the DPO to have broad authority to direct changes to the distribution system, OSD took the position that the Defense Logistics Executive--the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics)--was the accountable entity and that the DPO was to act as an advisor. As a result of this disagreement, accountability and authority for improving the distribution system remain unclear. In addition, the DPO's roles and responsibilities may overlap with those of other organizations that are involved in deployment and distribution. In recent testimony on DOD's business transformation efforts, GAO has stated that DOD has not routinely assigned accountability for performance to specific organizations or individuals who have sufficient authority to accomplish goals. Furthermore, DOD's current strategy to transform logistics lacks elements of an effective strategic plan, including specific performance goals, programs, milestones, and resources needed for achieving distribution objectives. Because of the problems in DOD's organizational structure and current strategy, DOD faces challenges in taking a coordinated and systemic approach to improving the distribution system. Until these issues are resolved, DOD has little assurance that warfighters in future conflicts will have more effective and timely logistics support. Two of DOD's five distribution initiatives GAO reviewed have been successful enough to warrant application to future operations, but the future of the other three is less certain because they lack funding or other support. Two promising initiatives that have been implemented are, first, the establishment of a deployment and distribution operations center in Kuwait to coordinate the arrival of supplies and, second, the consolidation of air shipments to Iraq that do not require sorting and repacking when they arrive in theater. The other three initiatives GAO reviewed are facing challenges to their implementation that raise concerns about when they will be completed. For example, the Army has not fully funded two new communications and tracking systems to better connect logisticians on the battlefield, and thus has placed their fielding schedules into question. The delay increases the risk that some future deploying units will lack a capability to effectively submit and monitor their supply requisitions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation and, since our report, has issued two versions of the logistics roadmap. First, in September 2005 DOD issued its anticipated Focused Logistics Roadmap, which the Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L characterized as an "as is" roadmap because it provided a baseline for future investment. Concerned that certain key logistics capabilities would not be achieved by 2015, the Under Secretary directed the development of a more rigorous "to be" logistics road map. The "to be" Logistics Roadmap was issued July 2008. While we have made additional recommendations to DOD to improve this latest Roadmap, it presents significantly greater detail on a wider range of logistics programs and initiatives than did the previous Logistics Transformation Strategy and represents a step forward in the department's strategic planning efforts for logistics.

    Recommendation: To enhance DOD's ability to take a more coordinated and systemic approach to improving the supply distribution system, the Secretary of Defense should improve the Logistics Transformation Strategy by directing the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) to include specific performance goals, programs, milestones, and resources to achieve focused logistics capabilities in the Focused Logistics Roadmap.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2007, the department issued DOD Directive 5158.04, "United States Transportation Command," and DOD Instruction 5158.06, "Distribution Process Owner." These policies formalize and institutionalize the Distribution Process Owner's functional responsibilities and provide a more comprehensive description of its relationship to the other key participants and stakeholders in the supply distribution system. Additionally, the Commanders of U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command signed a joint vision statement clarifying the responsibilities of each command and establishing a partnership to work together on five key goals intended to better align interrelated joint deployment and distribution actions for better mutual performance and to add value to the warfighter. In May 2006, the President approved an update to the Unified Command Plan that clarified U.S. Transportation Command's responsibilities as the Distribution Process Owner, including coordinating and overseeing the DOD distribution system to provide interoperability, synchronization, and alignment of DOD-wide, end-to-end distribution. These actions clarify organizational roles in the supply distribution system.

    Recommendation: To enhance DOD's ability to take a more coordinated and systemic approach to improving the supply distribution system, the Secretary of Defense should issue a directive instituting these decisions and make other related changes, as appropriate, in policy and doctrine.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2007, the department issued DOD Directive 5158.04, "United States Transportation Command," and DOD Instruction 5158.06, "Distribution Process Owner." These policies formalize and institutionalize the Distribution Process Owner's functional responsibilities and provide a more comprehensive description of its relationship to the other key participants and stakeholders in the supply distribution system. Additionally, the Commanders of U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command signed a joint vision statement clarifying the responsibilities of each command and establishing a partnership to work together on five key goals intended to better align interrelated joint deployment and distribution actions for better mutual performance and to add value to the warfighter. In May 2006, the President approved an update to the Unified Command Plan that clarified U.S. Transportation Command's responsibilities as the Distribution Process Owner, including coordinating and overseeing the DOD distribution system to provide interoperability, synchronization, and alignment of DOD-wide, end-to-end distribution. These actions clarify organizational roles in the supply distribution system.

    Recommendation: To enhance DOD's ability to take a more coordinated and systemic approach to improving the supply distribution system, the Secretary of Defense should clarify the scope of responsibilities, accountability, and authority between the DPO and the Defense Logistics Executive as well as the roles and responsibilities between the DPO, the Defense Logistics Agency, and Joint Forces Command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Subsequent to our report, the Army increased the VSAT acquisition objective from 775 to 3,300 units. The procurement of all 3,300 VSATs is now fully funded through a combination of fiscal years 2007 and 2008 supplemental and base year budget program dollars. The Army has also included future funding for VSAT in its Program Objective Memorandum for fiscal years 2010-2015. Similarly, in fiscal year 2007, the Army increased funding for the MTS and now plans to field over 43,600 systems. The Army plans to have all units fielded by fiscal year 2012. The total requirement of approximately $806 million through fiscal year 2012 is funded at $687 million, or 85 percent, through fiscal year 2012. The Army's decision to increase funding of the VSAT and MTS will improve the capability of future deploying units to more effectively monitor their supply requisitions, which should help ensure that needed items are delivered to the right place at the right time.

    Recommendation: To address the current underfunding of the Very Small Aperture Terminal and the Mobile Tracking System, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to determine whether sufficient funding priority has been be given to the acquisition of these systems and, if not, to take appropriate corrective action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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