Homeland Security:

Enhanced National Guard Readiness for Civil Support Missions May Depend on DOD's Implementation of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act

GAO-08-311: Published: Apr 16, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 2008.

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The high use of National Guard (Guard) forces for overseas missions has raised questions about its ability to support civil authorities in the event of a catastrophic incident. GAO was asked to assess two alternatives for providing funding and authority specifically for the Guard's civil support missions. Congress subsequently enacted a new approach for the Guard's civil support needs, which GAO also included in this assessment. GAO determined: (1) the extent to which planning to identify the Guard's civil support requirements has been undertaken, (2) the current funding approach for the Guard's civil support capabilities and how three approaches--modeled after the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the Coast Guard, and that in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act--could be applied to the Guard; (3) guiding principles to consider when developing and implementing funding alternatives, and (4) the extent to which the existing and alternative approaches are consistent with these principles. GAO synthesized guiding principles for military and civil support effectiveness from the literature and discussed alternatives with defense and homeland security analysts.

Comprehensive planning has not been undertaken, by the states or federal agencies, to identify the Guard's requirements for responding to large-scale, multistate civil support missions, such as Hurricane Katrina, because responsibilities for conducting this planning have been unclear. While such events are likely to be state-led, federal funds are likely to be used to fund the Guard's response. The efficiency and effectiveness of response efforts can be facilitated by planning that assigns responsibilities, develops requirements, identifies gaps, and prioritizes investments. The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act addresses planning responsibilities to some extent by directing the Department of Defense (DOD) to (1) plan for the Guard's response to natural disasters and acts of terrorism and (2) plan for and fund the unique capabilities DOD needs to provide during civil support missions. Most of the Guard's capabilities have been funded through DOD appropriations to equip, staff, and train for its warfighting missions. The states rely on these capabilities for civil support missions when available. However, alternative funding approaches could provide specific funding for the Guard's civil support role. Under a SOCOM-like approach, the National Guard Bureau could be given funding and authority to provide Guard forces with unique civil support capabilities not already funded by DOD. Under a Coast Guard-like approach, DOD would fund the Guard's warfighting needs, but the Department of Homeland Security could identify needs for and fund the Guard's civil support-unique capabilities. The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act directed DOD to develop a funding request for certain capabilities DOD needs to provide civil support. GAO identified seven guiding principles that can be used in assessing the extent to which funding alternatives would support the Guard's dual roles. These include (1) maintain warfighting capability; (2) maintain civilian control; (3) involve key stakeholders; (4) promote interagency planning; (5) promote economy and efficiency; (6) support coherent budget formulation; and (7) provide accountability and transparency. The current approach and two of the alternatives address some of the principles, but none incorporates all of them. For example, the current approach maintains warfighting integration; but it does not provide specific funding for civil support needs or encourage integration of Guard forces with stakeholders outside DOD. The SOCOM and Coast Guard-like models would provide processes for identifying and funding civil support requirements, but neither would promote interagency planning and collaboration. The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act addresses all of the principles, at least in part, but it is unclear the extent to which DOD's implementation will yield results that are fully consistent with the guiding principles until implemented. For example, it is unclear the extent to which DOD will consider the input of the external stakeholders or fund civil support capabilities the Guard needs for state-led but federally funded missions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has undertaken a number of studies and assessments, including working with the Department of Homeland Security, that identified requirements for civil support capabilities and informed decisions on investment priorities. In July 2012, the Secretary of Defense directed the Department to take specific actions to improve defense support in complex catastrophes, including identifying priority capability needs; everaging a broad range of DOD forces and capabilities by expediting access to Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Reserves; and better integrating planning with federal and state civil authorities, among others. The services are directed to implement the actions and consult with the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) if implementation of these actions drives an increase in costs. The Secretary also established a Senior Steering Group to oversee progress towards timely and effective implementation of these actions. Although the Department did not conduct its assessment in time to be included in the FY 2010 budget, its subsequent actions have demonstrated commitment to preparing for complex catastrophes, effectively implementing the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To assist congressional oversight, the Secretary of Defense should include information in materials accompanying its fiscal year 2010 budget submission on the steps the department has taken to incorporate the guiding principles in its implementation of the provisions contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. Specifically, DOD should include information on the analytical process used to formulate the department's funding request for the capabilities needed to support civil authorities in an incident of national significance or a catastrophic incident including how it identified requirements, assessed capability gaps, and set investment priorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has undertaken a number of studies and assessments, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies, that identified requirements for civil support capabilities. In July 2012, the Secretary of Defense directed the Department to take specific actions to improve DOD's ability to provide more comprehensive support to civil authorities in the even of a complex catastrophe. Among the steps is to better integrate DOD civil response planning with federal and state civil authorities, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency's regions and the National Guard, based on the Strategic National Risk Assessment, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's planning activities and its catastrophic scenarios identified within the FEMA regions and states. The directive effectively meets the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To assist congressional oversight, the Secretary of Defense should include information in materials accompanying its fiscal year 2010 budget submission on the steps the department has taken to incorporate the guiding principles in its implementation of the provisions contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. Specifically, DOD should include information on its assessment of the extent to which DOD's civil support investment priorities are consistent with DHS's risk-management framework for emergency preparedness and response and DHS efforts to promote standards for integration and interoperability among civilian responders.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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