Defense Management:

Additional Cost Information and Stakeholder Input Needed to Assess Military Posture in Europe

GAO-11-131: Published: Feb 3, 2011. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 2011.

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In 2004, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced sweeping changes to restructure U.S. military presence overseas and reduce military posture in Europe. In August, 2010, the Secretary of Defense called for a review of DOD operations and activities to identify opportunities to decrease costs in order to free funds to support other DOD priorities. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs asked GAO to determine the extent to which the European Command (EUCOM) (1) estimates and reports the total cost of DOD's installations in Europe and (2) has defined methods for evaluating posture alternatives and including the views of interagency stakeholders in its posture planning process. To address these objectives, GAO assessed DOD plans and guidance, reviewed planning efforts in EUCOM, and collected obligations data from the military services for the military construction, family housing, and operation and maintenance appropriations.

DOD posture planning guidance does not require EUCOM to include comprehensive cost data in its theater posture plan and, as a result, DOD lacks critical information that could be used by decision makers as they deliberate posture requirements. DOD guidance requires that theater posture plans provide specific information on, and estimate the military construction costs for, installations in a combatant commander's area of responsibility. However, this guidance does not require EUCOM to report the total cost to operate and maintain installations in Europe. GAO analysis shows that of the approximately $17.2 billion obligated by the services to support installations in Europe from 2006 through 2009, approximately $13 billion (78 percent) was for operation and maintenance costs. Several factors--such as the possibility of keeping four Army brigades in Europe instead of two--could impact future costs. DOD is drafting guidance to require more comprehensive cost estimates for posture initiatives; however, these revisions will not require commanders to report costs, unrelated to posture initiatives, for DOD installations. GAO's prior work has demonstrated that comprehensive cost information is critical to support decisions on funding and affordability. Until DOD requires the combatant commands to compile and report comprehensive cost data in their posture plans, DOD and Congress will be limited in their abilities to make fully informed decisions regarding DOD's posture in Europe. EUCOM has developed an approach to compile posture requirements, but it does not have clearly defined methods for evaluating posture alternatives or routinely incorporating the views of interagency stakeholders. EUCOM has taken several steps to assign responsibilities for developing its posture plan and established an Executive Council to deliberate posture issues and work with the service component commands, but the process of developing a theater posture plan is relatively new and is not yet clearly defined and codified in command guidance. While EUCOM's steps to date have improved its ability to communicate with stakeholders and resolve conflicting views on posture issues, it has not been clearly defined and codified in command guidance. Furthermore, it does not provide for the analysis of costs and benefits, because the combatant commander has not been required to include such analysis in developing the theater posture plan. In addition, the Interagency Partnering Directorate--which was established by the EUCOM commander to improve interagency coordination within the command--has been included in the Executive Council, but EUCOM has not defined how interagency representatives can regularly participate in ongoing posture planning activities. As a result of these weaknesses in EUCOM's posture planning approach, the command is limited in its ability to consider and evaluate the cost of posture in conjunction with the strategic benefits it provides, and it may not be fully leveraging interagency perspectives as it defines future posture requirements. GAO recommends that DOD revise posture planning guidance to require comprehensive estimates of posture costs and provide for consistent analysis of posture alternatives, and that EUCOM clarify its posture planning process and methods to regularly obtain interagency perspectives. DOD agreed with GAO's recommendations and identified corrective actions, but additional steps are needed to fully address the recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has issued guidance through Joint Staff to combatant commanders on preparing posture plans that include comprehensive cost estimates, as we recommended in February 2011 in our report Defense Management: Additional Cost Information and Stakeholder Input Needed to Assess Military Posture in Europe (GAO-11-131). In that report, we found that DOD posture planning guidance does not require U.S. European Command to include comprehensive cost data in its theater posture plan, and as a result, DOD lacks critical information that could be used by decision makers as they deliberate posture requirements. We recommended they revise posture planning guidance to require comprehensive estimates of posture costs and provide for consistent analysis of posture alternatives. DOD agreed with our recommendation and stated that actions would be taken to address these matters. In April 2015, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an instruction entitled Coordination of Overseas Force Structure Changes and Host Nation Notification that identifies the key cost elements to be included in posture change proposals. Also in 2015, DOD issued supplemental posture guidance to the 2011 Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan that requires the inclusion of estimated operations and maintenance costs and military construction costs in posture change proposals. DOD's formal response to our report and later correspondence with DOD officials clearly indicate that DOD's action was influenced by our recommendation. DOD's guidance addresses the intent of our recommendation, and as a result, DOD is positioned to make better informed posture decisions based on the inclusion of thorough cost data in posture planning processes.

    Recommendation: To provide for more comprehensive information on the cost of posture and analysis of posture alternatives as future theater posture plans are developed, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to revise the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to require the theater posture plan to include the cost of operating and maintaining existing installations and estimate the costs associated with initiatives that would alter future posture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has issued guidance through the Joint Staff regarding how combatant commands should analyze the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action when considering proposed changes to posture, as we recommended in February 2011 in our report Defense Management: Additional Cost Information and Stakeholder Input Needed to Assess Military Posture in Europe (GAO-11-131). In that report, we found that U.S. European Command does not have clearly defined methods for evaluating posture alternatives, and its process for posture plan development does not provide for the analysis of costs and benefits, because the combatant commander has not been required to include such analysis in developing its theater posture plan.. We recommended that DOD develop posture planning guidance on how combatant commands should analyze the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action when considering proposed changes to posture.. DOD agreed with our recommendation and stated that actions would be taken to address these matters. In April 2015, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an instruction entitled Coordination of Overseas Force Structure Changes and Host Nation Notification that identifies the key cost elements to be included in posture change proposals. Also in 2015, Joint Staff issued supplemental posture guidance to the 2011 Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan that requires the assessment of alternatives for approved posture change proposals. DOD's formal response to our report and later correspondence with DOD officials clearly indicate that DOD's action was influenced by our recommendation. DOD's guidance addresses the intent of our recommendation, and as a result, DOD is positioned to make better informed posture decisions based on the analysis of costs and benefits of alternative courses of action when considering proposed changes to posture.

    Recommendation: To provide for more comprehensive information on the cost of posture and analysis of posture alternatives as future theater posture plans are developed, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to revise the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to provide guidance on how the combatant commands should analyze the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action when considering proposed changes to posture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2012, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) issued ECI 2306.01 entitled "Theater Posture Planning," that establishes the roles and responsibilities of the European Posture Executive Council and Integration Team in the posture planning process and development of the theater posture plan; develops a process through which interagency perspectives can be obtained, and codifies the EUCOM posture planning process. DOD officials told us this instruction was developed in response to GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that EUCOM clearly defines a process for developing its theater posture plan, including compiling posture costs, considering affordability, and regularly obtaining the perspectives of relevant agencies throughout the posture planning process, the Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct the EUCOM Commander to define the roles and responsibilities of the European Posture Executive Council and Integration Team in the posture planning process and development of the theater posture plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2012, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) issued ECI 2306.01 entitled "Theater Posture Planning," that establishes the roles and responsibilities of the European Posture Executive Council and Integration Team in the posture planning process and development of the theater posture plan; develops a process through which interagency perspectives can be obtained, and codifies the EUCOM posture planning process. DOD officials told us this instruction was developed in response to GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that EUCOM clearly defines a process for developing its theater posture plan, including compiling posture costs, considering affordability, and regularly obtaining the perspectives of relevant agencies throughout the posture planning process, the Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct the EUCOM Commander to develop a process through which interagency perspectives can be obtained throughout the posture planning process and the development of the theater posture plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2012, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) issued ECI 2306.01 entitled "Theater Posture Planning," that establishes the roles and responsibilities of the European Posture Executive Council and Integration Team in the posture planning process and development of the theater posture plan; develops a process through which interagency perspectives can be obtained, and codifies the EUCOM posture planning process. DOD officials told us this instruction was developed in response to GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that EUCOM clearly defines a process for developing its theater posture plan, including compiling posture costs, considering affordability, and regularly obtaining the perspectives of relevant agencies throughout the posture planning process, the Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct the EUCOM Commander to issue guidance to codify the EUCOM posture planning process once the above steps have been taken.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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