Military Training:

Observations on the Army's Implementation of a Metric for Measuring Ground Force Training

GAO-12-191R: Published: Mar 16, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 2012.

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Sharon L. Pickup
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What GAO Found

The full spectrum training mile metric is similar in some ways to the tank mile metric and dissimilar in other ways. Both metrics measure training activity of nondeployed units associated with recommended training events based on the Army's approved training strategy. Specifically, they both calculate the average number of miles a unit is expected to drive its vehicles on an annual basis for training that occurs during the reset and train/ready stages of the Army’s Force Generation (ARFORGEN) cycle.

However, the full spectrum training mile metric applies to all Army components (active component, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard) while the tank mile metric does not apply to the Army Reserve, because the Army Reserve does not have tanks. The full spectrum training mile metric also is based on multiple vehicles including the M1 Abrams tank, M2/M3 Bradley, Stryker, up-armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, medium tactical vehicle, and palletized load system, while the tank mile metric is limited to the M1 Abrams tank. According to Army officials, the full spectrum training mile metric—and its incorporation of a wider array of vehicles—is more reflective of the type of vehicles the Army is actually using to train its ground forces for full spectrum operations.

The Army’s full spectrum training mile metric is based on certain assumptions associated with standards set in the Army’s training strategy and force-generation model. Because the metric is a standard for actual training to be measured against, the metric’s assumptions are based on desired or expected conditions and may not fully align with actual conditions. For example, the Army made certain assumptions about the length of time units would spend in each stage of the ARFORGEN cycle, assumed that units would have all the vehicles that were included in their modified table of organization and equipment, and assumed units would accomplish all the training in the Army’s training strategy. However, prior GAO reports and Army readiness reports have both shown that units do not always have all the equipment, including vehicles included in their modified table of organization and equipment, available when they are conducting training. Army officials have also acknowledged that many units are not currently executing the ARFORGEN training cycle and the Army’s training strategy as envisioned. To the extent that units do not have all of their equipment, including vehicles, or complete all recommended training, the units’ actual miles driven may differ from the Army’s full spectrum training mile metric. According to a responsible Army official, the Army tracks historical data on actual miles driven and has, in the past, adjusted assumptions used to develop its tank mile metric to more closely reflect actual conditions. The Army plans to continue this practice now with the new metric in place. For example, when conducting its 2010 training strategy review, the Army reduced its estimated miles per training day and event to more closely reflect actual miles driven.

The Army uses the full spectrum training mile metric to measure training activity. Specifically, the Army compares the actual miles its units have driven to conduct ground force training to its full spectrum training mile metric to determine how well it executed its training strategy. However, the Army does not use the full spectrum training mile metric to develop its training cost estimates or related funding needs. The Army uses its Training Resource Model, rather than its full spectrum training mile metric, to develop its training cost estimates and funding needs. While some of the inputs to the full spectrum training mile metric and the Training Resource Model are the same (i.e., the number and duration of training events and the numbers of units and vehicles available for training) the Training Resource Model contains unique inputs, such as cost factors that are not related to the full spectrum training mile metric. Specifically, the cost calculation in the Training Resource Model includes the cost to drive a vehicle, expressed as cost per mile, that are linked to the number of units and vehicles, as well as other indirect nonmileage support costs, such as civilian pay. The Training Resource Model, like the full spectrum training mile metric, assumes, among other things, that all recommended training events will be fully executed. To the extent that all training does not occur or other assumptions do not hold true, requirements could differ from estimates derived from the Training Resource Model. According to an Army official, the Training Resource Model is one of several sources of information the Army considers when developing its funding requests for training. For example, the official stated the Army uses historical data on actual miles driven to adjust its funding requests to more closely reflect actual conditions.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2008, the Army issued a field manual that identified the need to expand its training focus so units would be trained and ready to operate across a full spectrum of operations including offensive, defensive, stability, and civil support operations. To support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the last several years, the Army has focused its ground force training on preparing units for counterinsurgency operations. With the withdrawal from operations in Iraq, fewer units are engaged in counterinsurgency operations and now have more time to train for full spectrum operations.

To reflect the shift in training focus, the Army, in April 2011, updated its training strategy and also established a new metric to measure training activity—referred to as the full spectrum training mile metric. This metric replaced the Army’s traditional tank mile metric, which represented the average number of miles the Army expected to drive its tanks while conducting training. In its fiscal year 2012 budget materials, the Army provided background information on its transition to the new metric, and, starting in fiscal year 2012, began using the new metric.

House report 112-78 directed GAO to review the Army’s transition to the full spectrum training mile metric and report its findings by February 28, 2012. To address this mandate, we determined (1) how the Army's full spectrum training mile metric differs from its traditional tank mile metric; (2) the key assumptions associated with the full spectrum training mile metric and to what extent these assumptions reflect actual conditions; and (3) to what extent the Army uses the full spectrum training mile metric to measure training execution and develop training cost estimates and related funding needs. Additionally, for background purposes, this report includes information on how training is reflected in the Army’s operation and maintenance budget-justification materials.

For more information, contact Sharon L. Pickup at 202-512-9619 or pickups@gao.gov.

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