Defense Logistics:

Improved Oversight and Increased Coordination Needed to Ensure Viability of the Army's Prepositioning Strategy

GAO-07-144: Published: Feb 15, 2007. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 2007.

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Prepositioned military equipment and supplies on ships and overseas on land have become an integral part of the U.S. defense strategy. However, the Army's program has faced long-standing management challenges, including equipment excesses and shortfalls, invalid or poorly defined requirements, and maintenance problems. In Public Law 109-163, Congress required the Army to conduct an assessment of its prepositioning programs and required GAO to assess (1) whether the Army's report addressed the areas required by Congress, and (2) the major challenges the Army continues to face in its prepositioning program. GAO analyzed the Army's report and other information it obtained from the Joint Staff, the Army, and its subordinate commands to identify the issues affecting the Army's prepositioning program. GAO also visited prepositioned equipment sites in South Carolina, Europe, South Korea, and Kuwait.

The Army's April 2006 report on the status of its prepositioning program addressed the areas required by Congress; for example, it included descriptions of operational capabilities, as well as inventory shortfalls expressed in terms of procurement costs. However, the Army significantly shifted its prepositioning strategy in the latter part of 2006, since that report was issued. According to the Army, this shift was based on insights gained from the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, but Army officials told us that budget reprogramming decisions and worsening Army-wide equipment shortfalls also influenced the expedited strategy revision. The Army's revised strategy proposes less reliance on heavy combat equipment afloat and the expansion of heavy equipment in Kuwait and Italy. As a result, the Army's April 2006 report to Congress is outdated, and neither Congress nor DOD should base funding decisions on it. The Army faces several major strategic and management challenges as it revises and implements its prepositioning program. From a strategic perspective, the Army cannot gauge how well its emerging strategy will align with DOD plans currently under development. The Army plans to begin implementing its revised strategy by the end of 2006. DOD has a departmentwide prepositioning study underway intended to set strategy and joint doctrine, but this will not be completed for several months and it anticipates that the Army will have to modify its prepositioning strategy when the DOD-wide strategy is issued. As a result, the Army is at risk of resourcing requirements that may be superseded by the DOD strategy. Moreover, because prepositioning is linked to airlift, sealift, and basing, the Army's decisions will have an as-yet undetermined effect on these areas. In addition to these strategic concerns, the Army faces three key management challenges. First, the Army has yet to determine sound secondary item and operational project stock requirements, and to systematically measure and report readiness. While the Army has been taking steps to address long-standing requirements-determination problems in certain parts of its program, the effort was not finished when GAO completed its work. Without accurate requirements and systematic readiness reporting, Army managers are not able to determine the extent to which the existing inventory reflects what the Army needs. Second, the Army lacks a comprehensive plan for maintenance and storage facilities for prepositioned stocks, resulting in uncertain future facility requirements. In the interim, prepositioned stocks are being stored outside, resulting in higher maintenance costs. Finally, inadequate maintenance oversight of the Army's prepositioning program has raised concerns about the true condition of the equipment at some locations. Until these strategic and management challenges are addressed, the Army will face uncertain risks should new conflicts occur.

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: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to take steps to synchronize the Army's prepositioning strategy with the DOD-wide strategy to ensure that future investments made for the Army's prepositioning program align with the anticipated DOD-wide prepositioning strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with our recommendation, but stated that it had already taken steps to address our recommendations and that further actions were not needed. The department's referenced actions reflected a service centric approach to prepositioning and precluded opportunities for innovation, and could lead to duplication across the department. We believe that the department wide strategy for preposition stocks should not just reflect the cobble together plans of the individual services. We have made similar recommendations in our more recently issued report on prepositioned stock (GAO-11-647), and consequently are closing this recommendation as not implemented.

    Recommendation: Once the strategic direction is aligned with the DOD strategy, the Secretary of the Army should develop an implementation plan that completes ongoing reevaluation of the secondary item and operational project stock requirements, as well as establishes systematic readiness measurement and reporting of secondary items and operational project stock programs, identifies the optimal mix of storage and maintenance facilities at each location to support the emerging strategy, and prescribes oversight requirements for the maintenance of prepositioned equipment to ensure that equipment is ready for combat.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with our recommendation, but stated that it had already taken steps to address our recommendations and that further actions were not needed. This recommendation was conditional based on our recommendation, that the Army first synchronizing its propositioning strategy with the DOD-wide strategy, which it has not. The department's referenced actions reflected a service centric approach to prepositioning and precluded opportunities for innovation, and could lead to duplication across the department. We believe that the department wide strategy for preposition stocks should not just reflect the cobble together plans of the individual services. We have made similar recommendations in our more recently issued report on prepositioned stock (GAO-11-647), and consequently are closing this recommendation as not implemented.

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