Defense Management:

Perspectives on the Involvement of the Combatant Commands in the Development of Joint Requirements

GAO-11-527R: Published: May 20, 2011. Publicly Released: May 20, 2011.

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John H. Pendleton
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At a time when the military is supporting ongoing operations in many places around the world, the Department of Defense (DOD) faces challenges balancing the strategic capability needs of the military services with the more immediate joint warfighting needs of the combatant commands (COCOM). Given concerns that the military service-dominated system for developing capabilities was not meeting the most essential warfighter needs, in 2003, DOD created the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) to guide the development of capabilities from a joint perspective. DOD's Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) oversees JCIDS and participates in the development of joint requirements, which includes the identification and analysis and synthesis of capability gaps and the JROC's subsequent validation of capability needs through JCIDS. Following stakeholder collaboration and deliberations, the JROC makes recommendations to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who advises the Secretary of Defense about which capabilities to invest in as part of DOD's budget process. Before making investment decisions, the services consider the validated capabilities during their planning, programming, and budgeting processes and make decisions among competing investments. In the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, Congress directed the JROC to seek and consider input from the commanders of the COCOMs on proposed joint military requirements. The act formalized steps Joint Staff leadership had taken to improve collaboration with COCOMs and echoed concerns similar to those we have previously reported. Specifically, in 2008 we reported that DOD was not taking advantage of opportunities to improve joint warfighting capabilities because it did not solicit input from each COCOM when validating requirements for major acquisitions intended for use in a joint environment. The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 also required that the Comptroller General report on the JROC's efforts to solicit and consider input from the commanders of COCOMs on proposed joint military requirements; the quality and effectiveness of efforts to estimate the level of resources needed to fulfill joint military requirements; and the extent to which the JROC considers cost, schedule, and performance trade-offs. This report provides information on (1) opportunities for COCOM input in the development of joint requirements and COCOM perspectives on these opportunities and (2) COCOM perspectives on JCIDS, as well as ongoing Joint Staff efforts to improve it. We are reporting separately on the cost estimates generated for joint military requirements and the JROC's consideration of cost, schedule, and performance trade-offs.

Prior to the implementation of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, DOD began revising its processes for developing joint requirements and provided COCOMs with opportunities to provide input about their specific capability needs during the identification, analysis and synthesis, and validation of capability gaps. COCOMs identify their respective commander's top capability gaps that could negatively affect COCOM missions. COCOMs also have opportunities to provide input to the Joint Staff as it analyzes and synthesizes identified capability gaps, combining similar items into overarching gaps and determining the most appropriate approach for filling them. During the validation of capability gaps, COCOMs participate as representatives to Functional Capabilities Boards and their related working groups. In response to our survey and follow-up interviews, the COCOMs reported that they generally took advantage of opportunities to participate throughout the development of joint requirements. The COCOMs noted the importance of participating in the development of joint requirements, but they questioned the value of what they described as a resource-intensive and time-consuming process that is not always responsive to their more immediate capability needs. The COCOMs also questioned the value of such a process resulting in decisions that, while influential, are advisory to acquisition and budget processes driven by service investment priorities. In addition, JROC approval is only the first step toward fielding a new capability--the development and acquisition of the capability may take several more years. The Joint Staff has initiated an internal review to assess how to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of JCIDS, but it is too early to assess the extent to which this review of the JCIDS process will address COCOM concerns.

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