Military Transformation:

Additional Actions Needed by U.S. Strategic Command to Strengthen Implementation of Its Many Missions and New Organization

GAO-06-847: Published: Sep 8, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 2006.

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In 2002, the President and Secretary of Defense called for the creation of the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) to anticipate and counter global threats. Currently, USSTRATCOM has responsibility for seven mission areas including nuclear deterrence and integrated missile defense. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which USSTRATCOM has made progress in (1) implementing its new missions and assessing mission results and (2) defining organizational responsibilities and establishing relationships with other Department of Defense (DOD) commands and organizations. To assess progress, GAO compared USSTRATCOM's efforts with lessons learned in implementing successful organizational transformations.

Since its establishment in 2002, USSTRATCOM has made progress in implementing its new missions by taking a wide range of actions such as developing concepts of operations for its new missions, establishing processes and procedures, and identifying and obtaining personnel and resources needed to begin operations. However, further steps are needed to build on this progress in order to achieve the broad goals envisioned by the President and Secretary of Defense in creating the command. While the command's leadership recognizes the need to build on progress to date and has some additional actions underway to expand and enhance capabilities in its seven mission areas, GAO identified several areas in which more specific actions are needed to help the command achieve its vision. Specifically, the command has taken initial steps to include its new missions in its exercise program but has not yet fully developed a robust exercise program that integrates exercise support available from the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which can provide USSTRATCOM with several planning, training, and evaluation tools. In addition, most of USSTRATCOM's new mission organizations have not established clear criteria for determining when they will reach full operating capability. Furthermore, USSTRATCOM has not developed performance measures and criteria for assessing results across the command and in each of its mission areas. GAO's prior work examining organizational change and defense transformation shows that each of these tools is important for transforming organizations to increase their likelihood of success, particularly when multiple organizations are involved in mission execution. Developing plans in each of these areas should help the command demonstrate it can provide added value to the combatant commanders and give the President an expanded set of military options for responding to future threats--two key DOD goals. USSTRATCOM has also made progress in establishing an overall organizational framework and identifying subordinate mission organizations that have responsibility for the daily management of operations. However, it has not fully clarified roles and expectations of its service component organizations and had not developed a commandwide approach for enhancing outreach to other DOD organizations. While USSTRATCOM has provided some guidance to its service component organizations, because this guidance has not been specific or well documented, the Army, Navy, and Air Force do not fully understand their expectations in providing support to the command. In addition, while USSTRATCOM conducts some outreach with other combatant commands and organizations, it lacks a commandwide approach to effectively manage outreach activities. GAO has previously found that it is essential for organizations to develop a comprehensive communication strategy that seeks to engage customers and stakeholders. Providing additional guidance and developing a communications strategy should help USSTRATCOM's service component organizations to better understand their roles and enable the command to build effective relationships with other commands.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO has not identified any Congressional actions to require the Commander, US Strategic Command, to develop a long-term, comprehensive and transparent, results-oriented management process for assessing/benchmarking the command's progress in achieving desired outcomes; or to require the Commander, US Strategic Command to submit a progress report to Congress.

    Matter: Given the importance of the new role assigned to USSTRATCOM by the President and the Secretary of Defense to provide an expanded set of military options to more effectively respond to emerging threats to U.S. national security, Congress may wish to consider requiring the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to develop a longer-term, comprehensive and transparent, results-oriented management process for continuously assessing and benchmarking the command's overall progress in achieving desired outcomes and for identifying corrective actions to enhance the command's efforts to effectively carry out its missions, as outlined in our recommendation to DOD. In developing this process, the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, should develop and ensure that long-term goals and objectives are clear and achievable and milestones and timelines for achieving desired outcomes are established; develop or refine performance measures that clearly demonstrate performance results and ensure that those measures cascade down through the command; assign clear leadership with accountability and authority to implement and sustain the process. The Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, should set a specific time frame for developing and implementing this process. Additionally, the Commander should periodically report to Congress on the command's progress in achieving desired outcomes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: U.S. Strategic Command has taken steps consistent with GAO's recommendation that the command establish a communications strategy to guide and coordinate its efforts to conduct outreach with other combatant commands and Defense and other organizations; develop effective relationships and communications; promote and educate others about the value of its mission and capabilities; and obtain information on how the command can best support other commands and organizations. In 2007 U.S. Strategic Command stated to GAO that, as a supporting command to the geographic combatant commands, it maintained a senior officer representative at each combatant command headquarters to provide high-level support and coordination with these organizations on a continuous basis. The command also stated that it maintains a high-level, continuous presence at the Joint Staff. The command added that it provided and promoted insight to all of its activities to Defense and other organizations via a classified internet presence called the Strategic Knowledge Integration Web (SKIWeb) application. Additionally, U.S. Strategic Command stated that it provided Web-based mission area training for its missions to Defense organizations via Joint Forces Command's Joint Knowledge Development and Distribution Capability website. In August 2010 U.S. Strategic Command stated that it continued to evolve and mature its approach to communications. The command established a cell within the Commander's group for strategic communications to lead its effort, and has implemented other efforts that overlapped GAO's recommendation to develop a communications strategy. For example, GAO personnel have attended USSTRATCOM-sponsored symposia on nuclear deterrence and cyber-warfare which, along with a third annual symposium on space, are intended to enhance the level of global strategic dialogue and communicate U.S. Strategic Command's support to other organizations. Videos and other materials from these symposia are also posted to the command's website, which broadens its exposure to outside organizations. The Commander, U.S. Strategic Command also testified in March 2010 that the command ensures that its communications and support to the other combatant commands are enhanced by deploying teams worldwide to provide in-theater subject-matter expertise and facilitate more effective employment of the command's capabilities in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, space, operational security, electronic warfare, and cyber-warfare. By taking these steps, we conclude that the U.S. Strategic Command has implemented actions that are in line with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen USSTRATCOM's efforts to implement its missions and provide greater visibility of its progress, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to develop and implement a commandwide communications strategy to guide and coordinate USSTRATCOM's efforts to conduct outreach with other combatant commands and Defense and other organizations to develop effective relationships and communications, promote and educate others about the value of its mission and capabilities, and obtain information on how the command can best support other commands and organizations. This strategy should include the command's rationale, specific objectives, desired outcomes, and strategies for conducting outreach with other commands and organizations, and criteria against which the command can evaluate the success of its efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: U.S. Strategic Command has taken actions that are consistent with the intent of GAO's recommendation. Initially, in a 2007 response to our request for follow-up, the U.S. Strategic Command stated that it was currently revising its concept of operations for its service components, which would provide the guidance that GAO recommended. This guidance was to have been completed after October 2007. Such guidance to the service components is included in the most recent version of the command's concept of operations, which was published in October 2009. Additionally, in August 2010 the command indicated that had more clearly defined and provided specific information to its service components about their responsibilities, requirements, relationships, and expectations for supporting the command's headquarters and subordinate mission organizations in other ways. Noting that the command had continued to evolve and mature its organizations in ways that overlapped GAO's recommendations, U.S. Strategic Command indicated in 2010 that the command's guidance and expectations for its service components was documented in U.S. Strategic Command's Annual Operations Order, which is prepared by the command headquarter's Global Operations Directorate. Based on these actions, we conclude that U.S. Strategic Command has implemented steps that are in line with what GAO recommended in its 2006 report.

    Recommendation: To strengthen USSTRATCOM's efforts to implement its missions and provide greater visibility of its progress, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to provide additional guidance to the command's service components that clearly defines and provides more specific information about their responsibilities, requirements, relationships, and expectations for supporting the command's headquarters and subordinate mission organizations. There should be a a specific time frame set for approval of this guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO has been unable to fully document DOD actions to implement this recommendation. In a 2007 official memo to GAO, U.S. Strategic Command stated that it "works closely with component commanders to develop, implement, and assess the measures of progress against which mission area development is judged." The 2007 memo continued: "USSTRATCOM's management approach is a sustained and ongoing process, and includes periodic exercises, external inspection, and in-progress reviews which assess the Command's effectiveness in operationalizing its assigned mission areas and achieving stated objectives." In August 2010 U.S. Strategic Command clarified that a headquarters-level Mission Assessment and Analysis Directorate had been created to lead all command assessment activities. However, the August 2010 clarification was insufficient to determine whether U.S. Strategic Command had implemented the GAO recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen USSTRATCOM's efforts to implement its missions and provide greater visibility of its progress, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to develop a comprehensive, results-oriented management process for continuously assessing and benchmarking the command's overall progress in achieving desired outcomes and for identifying corrective actions to enhance the command's efforts to implement and integrate its missions. Develop or refine performance measures that clearly demonstrate performance results and ensure that those measures cascade down through the command; assign clear leadership with accountability and authority to implement and sustain the process; and develop and ensure that goals and objectives are clear and achievable and timelines are established. Set a specific time frame for completing development of this process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO has not been able to determine whether U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) has implemented this recommendation. In 2007, USSTRATCOM indicated in an official response to GAO that it planned to take steps to implement this recommendation, including providing close coordination between USSTRATCOM headquarters and "the component commanders to develop, implement, and assess measures of progress by which full operating capability will be declared." The command added that it had prepared implementing directives that assigned specific duties and responsibilities to each subordinate command to include target dates for achieving initial and full operating capability. The command added, in its 2007 response, that "when achieved, full operating capability for each individual mission area will be reported to OSD." In August 2010 the command provided followup information indicating that the Implementing Directives had been replaced by Operation Directives. However, the followup evidence was insufficient to conclude that the command had implemented GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen USSTRATCOM's efforts to implement its missions and provide greater visibility of its progress, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to provide clear and complete guidance to the Joint Functional Component Commands for Space and Global Strike, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, and Network Warfare, and the USSTRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction that clearly defines full operating capability and provides specific, common criteria for determining what is required and how it will be assessed. This guidance should be developed, in consultation with these organizations, before each organization declares full operating capability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on our recommendation that U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) strengthen the support it receives from the U.S. Joint Forces Command for its joint exercise program, DOD generally agreed that (1) USSTRATCOM should identify and request, in a timely manner, the long-term services and resources required from the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center to support USSTRATCOM's exercise program and to reach agreement on the level of support provided; (2) the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, in the near term, should make any possible adjustments among the Joint Warfighting Center's current resources to more fully support USSTRATCOM's program; and (3) the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, in the long term, should incorporate USSTRATCOM's requirements for support into the Joint Warfighting Center's plans. DOD has taken several actions that fully implement our recommendation. First, in an official response in August 2007 to our request for follow-up on this report, USSTRATCOM stated that its command and U.S. Joint Forces Command have an agreement stating that the Joint Warfighting Center will support two of USSTRATCOM's annual command-wide exercises. According to an Office of the Secretary of Defense official, this agreement is documented by U.S. Joint Force Command's Joint Training Plan for fiscal years 2008-2010, which requires the Joint Warfighting Center to work with each combatant command to identify the types of services that it would provide in support of two training events or exercises per year. Second, DOD has established rules for the Joint Warfighting Center to adjust its resources to better support USSTRATCOM exercises, subject to resource availability. For example, the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Training Plan allows the Joint Warfighting Center to be prepared to support emerging, real world exercise support requirements at the request of combatant commanders and based on available resources. Additionally, DOD's management principles for supporting combatant command exercises state that funds could be increased for a combatant command's exercise support if another combatant command voluntarily gives up one or both of their supported exercises. Third, DOD has established department-wide guidance that would ensure that the Joint Warfighting Center incorporates USSTRATCOM's requirements in its long-term funding plans. In March 2008 the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff established overarching management principles, planning assumptions, funding rules, and funding priorities for DOD's program to address the combatant commanders' training requirements. These principles state that the combatant commands, services, Joint Staff, and Office of the Secretary of Defense will annually reach agreement on the level of Joint Warfighting Center support to each combatant command's exercise program for the following year, and forecast the level of support required for the second year. As a result, the Joint Warfighting Center will be able to consider and incorporate USSTRATCOM's support requirements as it prepares its budget proposals.

    Recommendation: To better determine and obtain the assistance that can be provided by the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center in supporting USSTRATCOM's exercise program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to fully identify and request in a timely manner the long-term services and resources required from the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center to support the command's program and to reach agreement with the U.S. Joint Forces Command on the support to be provided. Further, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, (1) in the near term, to make any possible adjustments among the Joint Warfighting Center's current resources to more fully support USSTRATCOM's exercise program; and (2) in the long term, incorporate USSTRATCOM requirements for support in the center's plans to provide the full range of assistance necessary to help USSTRATCOM execute a robust exercise program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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