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Improved Joint Oversight and Reporting on DOD's Prepositioning Programs May Increase Efficiencies

GAO-11-647: Published: May 16, 2011. Publicly Released: May 16, 2011.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) prepositions equipment to help ensure combat-ready forces receive equipment in days rather than the weeks it would take if it had to be moved from the United States to their location. Prepositioned stocks may also support activities including disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. As GAO's third report in response to Congress's annual reporting requirement, GAO assessed the extent to which DOD has (1) met the six reporting requirements in the annual report to Congress on its prepositioned stocks, and whether additional information may be needed related to those requirements; (2) developed effective departmentwide guidance on prepositioned stocks to achieve national military objectives; and (3) organized effectively to provide joint oversight over its prepositioning programs and achieve efficiencies. To meet these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant DOD reports, strategies, and policies, and met with DOD and service officials in the U.S., Kuwait, and Qatar.

In its 2010 report to Congress, DOD generally responded to its six required reporting elements and GAO's prior recommendations, which resulted in a more informative report. However, DOD's report does not discuss the full range of prepositioned equipment, such as Army equipment required in excess of a military unit's authorization to meet specific combatant command planning requirements. The Army may spend at least $441 million to replenish this equipment, which is part of the $4.5 billion needed to fully reconstitute the Army's prepositioned stocks. Without this information, Congress may lack a complete picture of areas where potential efficiencies may be gained. In addition, DOD's report does not list any operation plan affected by shortfalls in prepositioned stocks, as required. Further, DOD's report does not include the specific risks of such shortfalls, the full range of mitigation factors, and the extent to which these factors reduce risk. Although not required, we believe that such information would help clarify DOD's assessment of the consequences of choosing among options and continuing evaluation of areas where the department can assume greater risk, as called for in its 2008 National Defense Strategy. DOD has limited departmentwide guidance that would help ensure that its prepositioning programs accurately reflect national military objectives, such as those included in the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. DOD has developed departmentwide guidance, referred to as Guidance for Development of the Force, but as of September 2010 this guidance contained little information related to prepositioned stocks even though DOD's 2008 instruction on prepositioned stocks specifically directed the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to develop such guidance. Furthermore, the information the services use to determine their requirements for prepositioned stocks may not clearly state the full range of DOD's need for these stocks. DOD's challenges in identifying the full range of potential demands for prepositioned stocks highlight the importance of departmentwide guidance specifying planning and funding priorities associated with DOD's current and future needs in this area. DOD faces organizational challenges which may hinder its efforts to gain efficiencies in managing prepositioned assets across the department. Specifically, DOD has been unable to ensure that the working group established to address joint prepositioning issues achieves its objectives because the working group lacks clearly stated lines of authority and reporting to other components within DOD. As a result, the working group may not be able to effectively synchronize or integrate, as appropriate, the services' prepositioning programs and the results of its efforts may not go beyond the working group itself. According to joint and service officials, efficiencies or cost savings could be gained through improved joint program management across the services and leveraging components in DOD such as the Defense Logistics Agency, which may be able to provide efficiencies in delivering stocks during early stages of contingency operations. GAO is recommending that the Secretary of Defense take five actions to provide comprehensive information, develop overarching guidance, and enhance joint oversight to increase program efficiencies. DOD agreed with GAO's recommendations.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense, upon clarifying DOD's joint oversight structure for prepositioned stocks, should direct the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to leverage the expertise of the Global Prepositioned Materiel Capabilities Working Group members, the offices they represent, and the results of the multiple recent or ongoing prepositioning studies to develop appropriately detailed authoritative strategic guidance, such as Guidance for Development of the Force. The guidance would include planning and resource priorities linking the department's current and future needs for prepositioned stocks, including desired responsiveness, to evolving national defense objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2012, DOD has not developed strategic guidance on its prepositioning programs. We have a review currently under way that will likely highlight DOD's lack of progress in this area.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to (1) assess the continued relevance of the Global Prepositioned Materiel Capabilities Working Group's assigned tasks and membership as stated in DOD Instruction 3110.06 and the group's charter and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the working group's objectives align with its activities. These would include making the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy a core member, and clarifying lines of authority and reporting between the working group and other components within DOD, such as the Global Posture Executive Council, so as to instill accountability through appropriate oversight and management review.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2012, DOD had not adjusted the working group's charter. We have a review currently under way that will likely address's DOD's lack of progress in joint oversight of its prepositioning programs, including weaknesses of the working group.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Staff operations and plans directorates to provide in DOD's annual report to Congress, in addition to the information DOD already includes related to Integrated Priority Lists and capability gap assessments, information it reports as part of the Joint Force Readiness Review, including (1) a summary of all DOD's plans the services have determined include requirements for prepositioned stocks, (2) a description of the extent to which the combatant commands assess that shortfalls in prepositioned stocks contribute to any specific execution risk in these plans, (3) the full range of measures in place to mitigate the risks of shortfalls in prepositioned stocks, and (4) an assessment of the extent to which the mitigation measures identified by the services reduce risk.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2012, DOD had not fully implemented this recommendation. We have a review currently under way that will likely address DOD's continued weakness in this area.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Staff and the Secretaries of the military services to provide, in addition to the six elements currently required in the annual report, a more comprehensive picture of the full scope of the services' prepositioning programs, to include (1) a representative summary description including the dollar value and, as appropriate, level of fill and information on serviceability, of (a) Army Operational Projects and Army War Reserve Sustainment Stocks, (b) Air Force munitions, medical stocks, rations, and fuel elements of its War Reserve Materiel program, and (c) Marine Corps materiel prepositioned to support an entire deployed Marine Corps force, such as its capability sets; and (2) all sources of funding for the services' prepositioned equipment and materiel, including working capital funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: While the Army has included some of this information in its fiscal year 2011 report to Congress, it, nor the other services, have included the full scope of the informaiton we recommended.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of the military services to implement DOD's authoritative strategic guidance on prepositioned stocks in such a way so as to integrate and synchronize at a DOD-wide level, as appropriate, the services' prepositioning programs so that they include updated requirements and maximize efficiency in managing prepositioned assets across the department to reduce unnecessary duplication.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2012, DOD has not developed strategic guidance on its prepositioning programs. We have a review currently under way that will likely address DOD's continued weaknesses in this area.

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