Military Training:

Actions Needed to More Fully Develop the Army's Strategy for Training Modular Brigades and Address Implementation Challenges

GAO-07-936: Published: Aug 6, 2007. Publicly Released: Aug 6, 2007.

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The Army considers modular force transformation its most extensive restructuring since World War II. The Army has estimated that restructuring units from a division-based force to a more agile and responsive modular brigade-based force will require a significant investment through fiscal year 2011. To facilitate this transformation, Public Law No. 109-163 Section 353 directs the Army to develop and implement a training strategy for the modular brigades. This law also directs GAO to report on the implementation of the strategy. This report discusses (1) the extent to which the Army's training strategy addresses the five elements specified in the public law and (2) the actions the Army has taken to implement its training strategy and the implementation challenges it faces. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed Army training strategy documentation and interviewed Army training personnel.

While the Army's training strategy addresses each of the five elements specified in the public law to some extent, additional work needs to be done to fully develop the strategy. Section 353 of Public Law No. 109-163 requires the Army's training strategy for modular brigades to include five elements: (1) purpose; (2) performance goals, including specific performance goals for live, virtual, and constructive training; (3) metrics; (4) a reporting process; and (5) a funding model. GAO's analysis indicated that the Army articulated the purpose of its strategy, but the remaining elements require further development. While an overarching performance goal has been established, the Army has not completed development of specific goals for live, virtual, and constructive training. Moreover, neither constructive training events nor the goals for them are clearly articulated. The Army also has not developed objective metrics to measure performance against its goal, but relies on a commander's professional experience to make a subjective assessment. In addition, the reporting process does not provide detailed collective training status and the funding model does not realistically estimate training costs. Until the Army fully develops the required elements in its training strategy, it will not be in a sound position to assess if it can achieve the long-term institutional benefits of having a consistently trained force, measure how well units have been trained, and accurately determine training costs. The Army has taken some actions to implement its training strategy, but key implementation challenges remain, such as the availability of forces, limited capacity of the Army's training centers, and the availability of training personnel. While the Army is developing guidance to implement its strategy, commitments to ongoing operations have limited the availability of forces to train as envisioned. The strategy is designed to support a model built on the assumption that a third of the Army's active duty brigade combat teams are deployed at one time; however, almost half of these brigades are deployed. Moreover, units are currently spending much less than the 2 years in training between deployments envisioned in the model, and training is focused on mission rehearsal instead of full spectrum operations. To support the model the Army's combat training centers must provide 36 combat training rotations for brigade combat teams by fiscal year 2010; however, the centers can only accommodate 28 rotations. While the Army is developing an exportable training capability to supplement the number of rotations conducted at the centers, the concept has not been tested and its costs are unclear, even though the Army has identified funding needs for fiscal year 2009. Personnel short falls at the combat training centers also hamper implementation of the strategy. Without developing a plan to address the challenges of current commitments and limited capacity, the Army will not know if it will be able to meet its training strategy goals. Moreover, until the Army completes the testing of the exportable training capability, it will be unable to verify that the concept is the most appropriate approach to meet its training requirements or what funding is required to establish the capability.

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: To address the challenges facing the implementation of the strategy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to clarify the capacity needed at the combat training centers to support the expanded modular force.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2007, the Army updated its capacity evaluation to support its increased end strength and on June 29, 2007, Army officials provided updated documentation to us that identified a requirement for 40 combat training center rotations per year to support the Army's increased end strength of 76 combat brigades. Prior to GAO's review and draft recommendation, the Army's documentation showed a training requirement for 36 combat training center rotations per year to support the Army's end strength of 70 combat brigades. As a result, by adjusting its strategy to include the increase in the number of combat brigades, the Army will be in a better position to provide training across its total force.

    Recommendation: To address the challenges facing the implementation of the strategy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to revise and adjust the training strategy to account for the current high level of operations so that it includes a plan to support full-spectrum threat training when most of the force is deployed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2008, the Army issued its updated Army Training and Leader Development strategy. The strategy addresses a plan to prepare units to conduct full-spectrum operations, rebuild strategic depth and continue to train for irregular warfare for ongoing operations. This updated training strategy addresses our recommendation by providing guidance on restoring balance to Army training while troops are still engaged in persistent conflicts.

    Recommendation: To improve its ability to assess unit training and identify funding needs while preparing the modular force and taking advantage of the long-term institutional benefits of the information provided by a fully developed strategy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to review and revise the funding model to more realistically estimate the costs associated with achieving the Army's performance goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD documentation, The Training Resource Model (TRM) is not intended to estimate all the training costs associated with achieving the Army's performance (training) goals. TRM accurately estimates the costs for repair parts, fuel, general supplies and other sustainment requirements for Army tactical units to conduct core mission essential task list, full spectrum training. TRM is a subset of a larger resource management process (PPBES) that quantifies, forecasts and prioritizes all Army training requirements. The methodology encompasses a rigorous validation process that accurately captures all institutional, operational, and training support requirements. It includes cost estimates developed through the TRM, Institutional Training Resource Model, Combat Training Center Master Plan, Home Station Master Plan, Training Support System Master Plan, Battle Command Training Strategy, Army Leaders for the 21st Century, and Army Program for Individual Training. Non-TRM outputs include estimates for requirements such as CTC modernization, procurement of non-system training devices, training range operations, land management, leader development initiatives, and individual training requirements. The outputs of all of these sources are reviewed, validated and approved by the Army's Training Program Evaluation Group. Taken collectively, all of these sources provide the cost estimates associated with achieving the Army's performance training goals, which meets the intent of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve its ability to assess unit training and identify funding needs while preparing the modular force and taking advantage of the long-term institutional benefits of the information provided by a fully developed strategy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop metrics that support the Army's training strategy by objectively and reliably measuring achievement against the Army's overall performance goal.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 2, 2008, the Army issued its updated Army Training and Leader Development Strategy. The updated strategy specifically identifies the Army's training goals, supporting objectives and various metrics to be achieved as well as timeframes for accomplishing some of the specific objectives. As a result, by establishing metrics tied to specific performance goals the Army will improve its ability to assess unit training and will be in a better position to take advantage of the long-term benefits of having a consistently trained force.

    Recommendation: To improve its ability to assess unit training and identify funding needs while preparing the modular force and taking advantage of the long-term institutional benefits of the information provided by a fully developed strategy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to modify the planning templates to clearly identify constructive training and the goals associated with it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD documentation, the Combined Arms Training Strategy (CATS) already includes a combination of live, virtual, and constructive training requirements supporting the core mission essential task list (CMETL) training to achieve full spectrum capability. However, the Army will modify the CATS planning templates to more clearly identify constructive training requirements throughout the ARFORGEN process. According to an Army official, in response to our report recommendation, the Army updated its CATS planning templates in the August 2007 timeframe to clearly identify constructive training requirements. He provided a copy of the updated template to GAO on August 4, 2008. As a result, by clarifying its training templates to clearly identify constructive training events and goals, the Army should be in a better position to measure how well its units have been trained and be able to take advantage of the long-term benefits a consistently trained force provides.

    Recommendation: To address the challenges facing the implementation of the strategy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to complete the proof of principle for the ETC to verify that it is the most appropriate approach to meet the additional capacity requirements for both Army Force Generation and the proposed expanded number of brigades and use the results to adjust the Army's fiscal year 2009 and future funding requests as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to Army documentation, the proof of principle testing was completed in March 2009. The test involve the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne. According to the documentation and an Army official associated with the testing, the intent of the test was to validate the exportable training capability approach to meet additional capacity requirements and to identify future resources needed.

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