Warfighter Support:

DOD Needs to Improve Its Planning for Using Contractors to Support Future Military Operations

GAO-10-472: Published: Mar 30, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 2010.

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Contractors provide a broad range of support to U.S. forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, with the number of contractors at times exceeding the number of military personnel in each country. The Department of Defense (DOD) has acknowledged shortcomings in how the role of contractors was addressed in its planning for Iraq and Afghanistan. In its report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the Senate Armed Services Committee directed GAO to assess DOD's development of contract support plans. This report examines (1) what progress DOD has made in developing operational contract support annexes for its operation plans, (2) the extent to which contract requirements are included in other sections of operation plans, and (3) DOD's progress in establishing a long-term capability to include operational contract support requirements in operation plans. GAO reviewed DOD policies, selected operation plans and annexes, and interviewed officials at the combatant commands, the Joint Staff, and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Although DOD guidance has called for combatant commanders to include an operational contract support annex--Annex W--in their operation plans since February 2006, we found only four operation plans with Annex Ws have been approved and planners have drafted Annex Ws for an additional 30 plans. According to combatant command officials, most of the annexes drafted to date restated broad language from existing DOD guidance on the use of contractors to support deployed forces. Several factors help explain the difficulties planners face in identifying specific contract support requirements in Annex Ws. For example, most operation plans contained limited information on matters such as the size and capabilities of the military force involved, hindering the ability of planners to identify detailed contract support requirements. In addition, shortcomings in guidance on how and when to develop contract support annexes complicate DOD's efforts to consistently address contract requirements in operation plans and resulted in a mismatch in expectations between senior DOD leadership and combatant command planners regarding the degree to which Annex Ws will contain specific information on contract support requirements. Senior decision makers may incorrectly assume that operation plans have adequately addressed contractor requirements. As a result, they risk not fully understanding the extent to which the combatant command will be relying on contractors to support combat operations and being unprepared to provide the necessary management and oversight of deployed contractor personnel. According to combatant command officials, detailed information on operational contract support requirements is generally not included in other sections or annexes of the operation plans. Although DOD guidance underscores the importance of addressing contractor requirements throughout an operation plan, including the base plan and other annexes as appropriate, GAO found that nonlogistics personnel tend to assume that the logistics community will address the need to incorporate operational contract support throughout operation plans. For example, combatant command officials told GAO that they were not aware of any assumptions specifically addressing the potential use or role of operational contract support in their base plans. Similarly, according to DOD planners, there is a lack of details on contract support in other parts of most base plans or in the nonlogistics (e.g., communication or intelligence) annexes of operation plans. DOD has launched two initiatives to improve its capability to address operational contract support requirements in its operation plans, but these initiatives are being refined and their future is uncertain. DOD has placed joint operational contract support planners at each combatant command to assist with the drafting of Annex Ws. In addition, the department has created the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office to help ensure that contract support planning is consistent across the department. For both initiatives, a lack of institutionalization in guidance and funding and staffing uncertainties have created challenges in how they execute their responsibilities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2007, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics placed two operational contract support planners at each of the combatant commands to improve contract support planning in operation plans. At the time of our work, the planners were contract employees and both the Joint Staff and others expressed concerns regarding the long term viability of using contractors to plan operational contract support. According to DOD in 2009, the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) jointly sponsored an issue nomination that led to permanently funding the joint operational contract support (JOCS) planners through the Defense Logistics Agency. As a result of this Resource Management Decision, the planners have transitioned from contractor support to DOD civilians. The JCASO and JOCSP programs have been institutionalized and funded. JCASO was established in August 2009 by the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness at the Defense Logistics Agency. JCASO was funded as an FY 2010 New Start Program in December 2009; this included assignment and funding to JCASO for 15 JOCSP and 28 Headquarters Full Time Equivalents. JCASO started staffing the organization in February 2010. Staffing was completed in FY 2011.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the department effectively institutionalizes the required organizational approach to addressing operational contract support in its operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and the Joint Staff Director for Logistics to take steps to ensure that both functions are adequately staffed and funded to meet their missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has clarified the role and the relationship between the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office (JCASO) and the joint operation support planners. As of November 2011, JCASO has been a part of the Defense Logistics Agency and is organized into two divisions a Policy division and an Operations division. According to DOD documents, the Operations division includes the contract support planners who are embedded with the combatant commands at the combatant command headquarters. In an effort to clarify the role of the JCASO, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Notice 4130.01 Guidance For Combatant Commander Employment Of Operational Contract Support Enabler-Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office (JCASO) which outlines the roles, responsibilities and the mission of the JCASO. This notice was issued in December 2011. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 3020.41 the instruction for OCS for Contingency states that JCASO shall provide contingency acquisition management support to CCDR OCS planning efforts, including recommendations for Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership,Personnel, and Facilities solutions.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the department effectively institutionalizes the required organizational approach to addressing operational contract support in its operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and the Joint Staff Director for Logistics to clarify the roles and missions of the joint operational contract support planners and the JCASO and the relationship between both functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An operation plan describes how DOD will respond to a potential event that might require the use of military force. An operation plan consists of a base plan and annexes. The base plan describes the concept of operations, major forces, sustainment concept, and anticipated timelines for completing the mission. In addition to the base plan, operation plans include annexes that provide further details on areas such as intelligence (Annex B), operations (Annex C), logistics (Annex D), personnel (Annex E), communications (Annex K), and operational contract support (Annex W). In March 2010, GAO recommended that Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff require the base plans and non-logistics annexes of operation plans to address the potential need for contractor support where appropriate (e.g., intelligence and communications annexes). In October 2012, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued CJCSM 3122.03 "Planning Formats and Guidance" which contains instructions in both the logistics and non-logistics annexes to plan for contracted support. For example, Annex K, Command, Control, Communications, and Computer Systems, directs the planners to complete a portion of Annex W (OCS) to reflect the Annex K requirements that will be met with contracted support. It also provides a list of potential capabilities that could be provided by contractors. Similar language is included in Annex Q (Medical Services), Annex C (Operations), and Annex E (Personnel). Other Annexes (such as Annex G Civil Affairs and Annex P Host-nation Support) have language requiring the consideration of use of contractor support.

    Recommendation: To improve the integration of operational contract support requirements throughout combatant command operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to require the base plans and nonlogistics annexes of operation plans to address the potential need for contractor support where appropriate (e.g., intelligence and communications annexes).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An operation plan describes how DOD will respond to a potential event that might require the use of military force. An operation plan consists of a base plan and annexes. The base plan describes the concept of operations, major forces, sustainment concept, and anticipated timelines for completing the mission. In March, 2010, GAO recommended that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff require all base plans to include an assumption on the potential use and role of contractors. In October 2012 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued new planning guidance for operational plans. The base plan format guidance includes 2 references to operational contract support. Paragraph 1 (Situation sub section Friendly Forces) requires an acknowledgement of the commander's intent to use Operational Contract Support (contractors) to meet mission requirements. Paragraph 4 (Administration and Logistics) directs the planners to include all know capabilities that are being satisfied by contractor support by category -- Systems Support (contracts used to support weapons systems), External Support (such as LOGCAP) and Theater Support (those contracts being awarded in theater such as private security contracts.) While not specifically in the assumption section of the base plan, DOD's action meets the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the integration of operational contract support requirements throughout combatant command operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to require all base plans to include an assumption on the potential use and role of contractors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in conjunction with the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), has included OCS specific guidance in the Guidance to Employ the Force and the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan. In addition, the Logistics Supplement to the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan will include additional clarification on the OCS planning requirements. It is anticipated that the Logistic Supplement will be published in the 2nd quarter of FY 2014

    Recommendation: To better enable senior DOD leadership to assess the department's reliance on contractors to execute future operations and to improve the ability of combatant commanders to effectively identify contract support requirements in their operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to update DOD's guidance for contingency planning to clarify and specify the level of plans that require an Annex W or similarly detailed discussion of operational contract support requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed that the level of operational contract support (OCS) details contained within a plan should be scoped to the anticipated size and capabilities of military forces to be used. Military plans vary greatly in scope. Whereas some plans may afford greater fidelity of details, such as the inclusion of a Time-Phased Force Deployment Data and known operating locations and bases, other plans are very general due to unknowns. The level of OCS details should be tailored accordingly. DOD issued a revised Annex W in October 2012 which now includes templates and detailed/explanatory guidance explaining the level of detail required in the Annex W. According to the document and DOD officials, the level of operational contract support detail to be included in operation plans is based on the level of detail provided regarding the size and capabilities of the military forces and how the plan envisions those forces being used.

    Recommendation: To better enable senior DOD leadership to assess the department's reliance on contractors to execute future operations and to improve the ability of combatant commanders to effectively identify contract support requirements in their operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to, as part of the ongoing revision of the Annex W template, clarify and specify the appropriate level of detail that should be included in an Annex W based on the degree to which the plan provides details on the size and capabilities of military forces and how the plan envisions those forces being used. The revised template should be completed consistent with the transition of the funding of the contract support planners from appropriations provided for overseas contingency operations to the defense budget

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD, it has included both the Joint Operational Contract Support Planners and the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office (JCASO) in some guidance and will incorporate the JCASO in other guidance as guidance undergoes revisions. For example, in December 2011, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Notice 4130.01 Guidance For Combatant Commander Employment Of Operational Contract Support Enabler-Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office (JCASO) which outlines the roles, responsibilities and the mission of the JCASO. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 3020.41 the instruction for OCS for Contingency states that JCASO shall provide contingency acquisition management support to combatant commander OCS planning efforts, including recommendations for Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel, and Facilities solutions. Also, DOD?s OCS Concept of Operations published in March 2010 includes a discussion of the role of the JCASO. Finally, DOD is undertaking a major revision of Joint Publication 4-10 Operational Contract Support. While the concept of the JCASO was included in the initial October 2008 version of publication, it is anticipated that the revised version will include a much more detailed discussion of the role and responsibilities of the JCASO. According to officials, JCASO representatives are actively involved in the joint publication revisions.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the department effectively institutionalizes the required organizational approach to addressing operational contract support in its operation plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and the Joint Staff Director for Logistics to incorporate both of these initiatives in DOD's operational contract support guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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