Military Readiness:

Navy Is Making Progress Implementing Its Fleet Response Plan, but Has Not Fully Developed Goals, Measures, and Resource Needs

GAO-08-264: Published: Feb 1, 2008. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 2008.

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The Navy initiated its Fleet Response Plan (FRP) in March 2003 as a critical enabler to help meet the new demands of the twenty-first century security environment. FRP represents a major change in the way the Navy manages its forces, and is intended to more rapidly prepare and then sustain readiness in ships and squadrons. To achieve the desired capabilities under FRP, the Navy has altered its training, maintenance, and manning practices. The Navy expects this new readiness approach will enable its forces to provide presence and engagement in forward areas, as well as surge a greater number of ships on short notice. The Navy intends to achieve this goal without increasing its operations and maintenance budget of about $40 billion for each of the next 5 years. However, GAO previously reported that the Navy had not fully incorporated a sound management approach to guide and assess implementation of FRP. As a result, GAO was asked to examine the extent to which the Navy has (1) made progress in implementing a sound management approach for FRP and (2) evaluated the long-term risks and tradeoffs of FRP-related changes.

The Navy has taken several positive steps toward implementing a sound management approach for FRP, but has not developed implementation goals, fully developed performance measures, or comprehensively assessed and identified the resources required to achieve FRP goals. GAO's prior work has shown that key elements of a sound management approach include: defining clear missions and desired outcomes, establishing implementation goals, measuring performance, and aligning activities with resources. The Navy has made progress in implementing FRP since GAO's prior reports. For example, it has established a goal of having three carrier strike groups deployed, three ready to deploy within 30 days of being ordered to do so, and one more within 90 days (referred to as 3+3+1). The Navy also has established a framework to set implementation goals for all forces, established some performance measures that are linked to the FRP phases, and begun efforts to identify needed resources. However, the Navy has not yet established a specific implementation goal for expeditionary strike groups and other forces. In addition, the Navy has not fully developed performance measures to enable it to assess whether carrier strike groups have achieved adequate readiness levels to deploy in support of the 3+3+1 goal. Moreover, the Navy has not fully identified the resources required to achieve FRP goals. Until the Navy's management approach fully incorporates the key elements, the Navy may not be able to measure how well FRP is achieving its goals or develop budget requests based on the resources needed to achieve expected readiness levels. The Navy has not fully considered the long-term risks and tradeoffs associated with the changes made as FRP has been implemented, such as carrier operational and maintenance cycles and force structure. The Navy has extended the intervals between carrier dry-dock maintenance periods from 6 years to 8 years and begun a test program that will extend some carrier dry-dock intervals to as much as 12 years, and it has lengthened operational cycles for carriers and their airwings to 32 months. GAO previously advocated that the Department of Defense adopt a risk management approach to aid in its decision making that includes assessing the risks of various courses of action. However, the Navy has not fully considered the long-term risks and tradeoffs of these recent changes because it has not performed a comprehensive assessment of how the changes, taken as a whole, might affect its ability to meet FRP goals and perform its missions. In addition, while the Navy has developed force structure plans that include two upcoming periods when the number of available aircraft carriers temporarily drops from 11 to 10, the plans included optimistic assumptions about the length of the gaps and the availability of existing carriers and did not fully analyze how the Navy would continue to meet FRP goals with fewer carriers. Until the Navy develops plans that use realistic assumptions and accurately identify the levels of risk the Navy is willing to accept during these gap periods, senior Navy leadership may not have the information it needs to make informed trade-off decisions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with this recommendation and, at the time of the GAO report, noted that the Navy established an interdisciplinary team, Task Force Readiness, which is chartered to develop and implement a comprehensive set of top-level metrics based on the concept of Operational Availability. Once completed, these metrics will provide the ability to link readiness outputs to the required resource inputs, with an end state that is a set of quantifiable and traceable relationships between the Navy's financial systems and Fleet readiness. However, a timeline for completion was not provided. In March 2010, DOD reported that the guidance for linking resources and readiness output has been promulgated within the Task Force Readiness II Memorandum of Understanding.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's management as FRP continues to evolve and as the Navy moves forward with implementation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to identify how resources should be linked to the FRP phases, goals, and readiness levels and publish appropriate guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, stating at the time of our report that the Fleet Readiness Enterprise is developing appropriate criteria that will delineate acceptable levels of competency in the performance of mission essential tasks, and no timeline for completion was provided. In March 2010, DOD reported that U.S. Fleet Forces Command/Pacific Fleet Instruction 3501.3B codifies an ongoing Navy Mission Essential Task review process. Subsequently, in April 2012 the Navy issued the Missions, Functions, and Tasks of United States Fleet Forces Command (OPNAVINST 5440.77B) stating that Fleet Forces Command, in conjunction with Pacific Fleet, will be the unified voice for fleet training requirements and policies to generate combat ready Navy forces per the Fleet Response Plan. Further, Fleet Forces Command is also responsible for developing training policies, plans, requirements, and processes in support of operational readiness. These policies, plans, requirements, and processes will be based on Navy mission essential tasks sequences throughout the training cycle to meet FRP response and capability levels.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's management as FRP continues to evolve and as the Navy moves forward with implementation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to develop additional performance measures that identify acceptable levels of performance and scope.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and, at the time of the GAO report, stated that the Navy plans to use the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS) to capture what capabilities and tasks units are able and ready to perform, which will include the ability to assess a unit's ability to conduct and complete missions assigned throughout the Fleet Response Plan continuum. In 2012, the Navy issued the Surface Force Readiness Manual, which establishes policy for optimizing surface force readiness throughout the FRP and it calls for evaluations to assess, validate, or certify ship readiness during each FRP phase. It also requires ships to report their readiness into the Defense Readiness Reporting System-Navy.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's management as FRP continues to evolve and as the Navy moves forward with implementation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to establish required overall readiness levels for each FRP phase in its readiness reporting system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation stating that, at the time of the GAO report, preliminary goals have been developed for submarines, surface combatants, and other types of forces, but they are not yet finalized. In March 2010, DOD reported that the implementation goals are in Chapter 3 of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command/Commander Pacific Fleet (USFF/CPF) Fleet Training Continuum Instruction 3501.3B and that additional details are included in each respective Enterprise's Training Manual. However, the implementation goals established in the Instruction are not analogous to the 3 3 1 goal for carrier strike groups.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's management as FRP continues to evolve and as the Navy moves forward with implementation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to establish implementation goals for the application of FRP to other forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2009, the House Armed Services Committee issued H.Rept. 111-166 to accompany the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In this report, the Committee explained that section 1022 of the NDAA (H.R. 2647) required the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in consultation with the commanders of the combatant commands, to conduct an analysis of risk associated with the temporary reduction in aircraft carrier force levels following the deactivation of the USS Enterprise, and to forward its analysis to Congress with the budget request for fiscal year 2013. In January 2009, DOD reported the results of the analysis to Congress.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's ability to weigh the trade offs associated with meeting FRP goals within current resource and force structure plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to perform a risk assessment that integrates consideration of the effects of changes in carrier strike group operational and maintenance cycles under a range of force structure assumptions, and that identifies strategies to mitigate potential risks. Such a risk assessment should integrate plans to meet FRP goals during two upcoming periods when the number of available aircraft carriers temporarily drops from 11 to 10.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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