Defense Transportation:

DOD Should Ensure that the Final Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan Includes Sufficient Detail to Meet the Terms of the Law and Inform Decision Makers

GAO-08-704R: Published: Apr 28, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 2008.

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Global mobility is a key component of U.S. national security. Since the end of the Cold War, senior decision makers have relied upon Department of Defense (DOD) mobility studies to provide insights they need to build and maintain the right mix of mobility capabilities. The most recent study, the Mobility Capabilities Study, identified the mobility support needed for the full range of strategic operations in the context of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the global war on terror, and DOD's evolving global defense posture, all in support of the National Military Strategy. According to DOD officials, the department plans to issue the next mobility study--the Mobility Capabilities Requirements Study--in the spring of 2009. The 2005 mobility study also assessed requirements for two overlapping war fights, DOD support to homeland defense, civil support, lesser contingency operations, sustainment of forward-deployed forces, and national strategic missions. In accomplishing these missions, DOD depends on its airlift force. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 mandated a requirements-based study on alternatives for the proper size and mix of the airlift force to meet the needs of the National Military Strategy to be done by a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). The Act specifically defined what the study plan should include and set time frames for the completion of various events. The FFRDC was to submit a study plan to the appropriate congressional committees, the Secretary of Defense, and the Comptroller General 60 days after the enactment of the Act. The Act required us to review the study plan to determine if it is complete and objective and whether it has any flaws or weaknesses in scope or methodology and report to the Secretary of Defense and the FFRDC within 30 days. It also required us to include in the report any recommendations that the Comptroller General considers appropriate for improvements to the study plan. DOD selected the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) to accomplish the study and signed a task order with IDA outlining the study framework. On March 28, 2008, IDA delivered the draft Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan to DOD, congressional committees, and us. The draft study plan comprises 34 pages of bulleted information, graphs, and diagrams. The seven major sections are introduction, background, scope, objective, study management, staged approach, and schedule. The single objective of the study is to address the numerous airlift issues identified in the Act and to report to the Secretary of Defense and to the Congress by January 10, 2009. We assessed the draft Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan that IDA delivered on March 28, 2008, for completeness, but we were unable to evaluate objectivity or identify flaws or weaknesses in scope or methodology. We also commented on another ongoing airlift-related study, the Mobility Capabilities Requirements Study, because it is related to the scope of the draft Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan.

The draft Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan does not meet the terms of the Act and lacks sufficient detail for assessment. We are unable to fully assess the draft Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan as required in section 1046 of the Act because the plan does not contain sufficient detail for us to evaluate its objectivity and its scope and methodology. Because the draft study plan did not address all of the specified elements in the Act, it is not complete. The draft plan did not include specific and explicit references that can be traced directly to the Act, such as the assumptions to be included in the study plan and assessments to be accomplished. This absence of detail also precludes us from evaluating the scope and methodology. Moreover, the plan lacked key details expected in such plans, such as assumptions and measures of effectiveness. The lack of details discussed above precludes us from making any recommendations concerning improvements to the study plan. DOD officials stated that because DOD selected IDA and issued a task order for the study only shortly before the mandated deadline, sufficient time was not available to produce a more detailed study plan. Nevertheless, DOD is responsible for ensuring the statutorily required elements of the study plan are fulfilled. IDA officials told us that IDA plans to submit to the Secretary of Defense in June 2008 a final Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan that will be more robust. In addition to the independent draft Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan, we note that DOD is conducting another study that may also inform decision makers on airlift issues.

Status Legend:

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  • 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

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to ensure that the final Size and Mix of Airlift Force Study Plan includes sufficient detail to address, at a minimum, elements mandated in section 1046 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 and ensure that the study plan includes sufficient detail to inform decision makers on airlift issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation and, in June 2008, the Federally Funded Research and Development Center that conducted the study, submitted a more robust study plan.

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