DOD Joint Bases:

Implementation Challenges Demonstrate Need to Reevaluate the Program

GAO-14-577: Published: Sep 19, 2014. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2014.

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What GAO Found

Joint base officials reported varying progress in consolidating installation-support functions, and challenges resulting from consolidation efforts that created inefficiencies and inequities. Overall, the joint bases reported partially consolidating 80 percent of their installation-support functions, but the extent of consolidation varied across the bases and among the various functions. None of the joint bases have reported consolidating all functions. However, all 11 joint bases reported consolidating some portion of eight functions, such as custodial services and installation safety. The least consolidated functions were reported to be military service-specific or mission-specific, such as small-arms range management and port services. Also, joint base officials reported several challenges resulting from consolidation, such as multiple inspections and employees being potentially disadvantaged in competing for promotion opportunities due to military service-specific personnel policies. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and military service officials have not evaluated which functions are still suitable for consolidation or taken policy actions to address any challenges resulting from consolidation. Without an evaluation of the suitability of installation-support functions for consolidation and without actions to address any negative consequences that emerged from consolidation, the Department of Defense (DOD) may continue to experience challenges in its efforts to consolidate these functions.

Variances in Installation-Support Functions Consolidated at 11 Joint Bases Surveyed

Variances in Installation-Support Functions Consolidated at 11 Joint Bases Surveyed

Note: Not all of the joint bases that GAO surveyed have small-arms range management or port services functions.

Joint base officials reported that consolidation of support functions has resulted in some progress toward achieving the goals of joint basing (achieving efficiencies and cost savings), by reducing redundant positions and finding contracting efficiencies. However, as GAO reported in November 2012, DOD does not have a method to collect cost savings information achieved specifically from joint basing. Thus, GAO recommended that DOD develop a plan for doing so. DOD disagreed and has not yet taken action. GAO continues to believe this recommendation has merit and should be addressed. Also, officials said they are uncertain of the extent to which the goals of joint basing are still appropriate, and to what extent they are required to take actions to pursue them. OSD has not collaborated with the military services to evaluate whether the goals of joint basing remain appropriate and has not provided direction to the joint bases on future priorities. Without a collaborative evaluation of the joint basing program by OSD and military service officials to determine if the goals remain appropriate—and without additional direction to help meet reporting requirements—it will be difficult for DOD to determine the extent to which the joint basing initiative is achieving its intended goals.

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO designated DOD support infrastructure as a high-risk area to address efficiency challenges. In 2005, DOD recommended to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission combining 26 installations into 12 joint bases to generate efficiencies and cost savings, initially estimated to be $2.3 billion. In 2009, DOD reduced this estimate to $273 million. GAO was mandated to assess DOD's progress in consolidating common services across joint bases. This report addresses the extent to which officials reported consolidating installation-support functions, and meeting joint basing goals to achieve greater efficiencies and cost savings. GAO conducted a survey of 11 joint bases, and reviewed applicable guidance. GAO did not survey Joint Region Marianas because it was subject to different expectations.

What GAO Recommends

Congress should consider directing DOD to evaluate joint basing goals, provide direction on requirements to meet the goals, and determine next steps for joint basing. GAO included this matter because DOD did not concur with GAO's recommendations to conduct such an evaluation and provide direction, in part because DOD stated joint bases have achieved savings. GAO also recommended DOD evaluate which installation-support functions remain suitable for consolidation, with which DOD concurred, and take policy actions to address challenges, with which DOD partially concurred, noting its existing processes to address challenges. GAO continues to believe its findings and recommendations are valid as discussed in this report.

For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or leporeb@gao.gov.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 10, 2015 there has been no legislation identified.

    Matter: To help ensure DOD's approach to joint basing achieves the goals as outlined by DOD in its justification for the 2005 BRAC recommendation and leverages additional opportunities to reduce duplication of effort that could in turn generate cost savings and increased efficiencies, Congress should consider directing the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), in collaboration with the military services and joint bases, to evaluate the purpose of the program and determine whether the current goals, as stated in the 2005 BRAC Commission recommendation, are still appropriate, or whether goals should be revised; communicate these goals to the military services and joint bases, and adjust program activities accordingly; provide direction to the joint bases on requirements for meeting program goals, including determining reporting requirements and milestones; and determine any next steps for joint basing, including whether to expand it to other installations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 10, 2015, DOD had not completed any actions that would allow us to close this recommendation. However, DOD stated that it has made progress on implementing the recommendation. For instance, although DOD noted that it could not revise the memorandums of agreements used to establish the existing 12 joint bases to show that some functions should not be consolidated, DOD stated that it is currently using an abbreviated list of support functions (leaving off functions we identified as poor candidates) in evaluating the viability of new candidates for joint basing if/when a new joint base is established. Any memorandum of agreement for a new joint base would reflect an abbreviated list of functions for consolidation based on the analyses and data reflected in our report. DOD is currently evaluating a potential joint base candidate as part of its European Consolidation Initiative (EIC) recommendations and when the EIC analysis is complete, DOD can send documentation to show the use of our work.

    Recommendation: To assist the joint bases in achieving additional opportunities to consolidate installation-support functions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), in coordination with the military services and joint bases, to evaluate the 44 support functions identified in DOD's guidance for joint base implementation to determine which functions are still suitable for consolidation. Subsequently, identify and make any changes that are appropriate to address limitations reported by the joint bases in consolidating installation-support functions, such as limitations related to workforces and geography.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 10, 2015, DOD had not completed any actions that would allow us to close this recommendation. However, DOD stated that it is taking actions to help meet the intent of the recommendation, which is to have a method to resolved military service level conflict stemming from consolidation of installation support functions that have led to inefficiencies and/or inequities. DOD has drafted joint basing guidance in the form of a handbook that has been signed-off by the Navy and Air Force. DOD anticipates that the Army will sign-off some time during September 2015. According to DOD, the joint basing handbook will address inconsistent military service level guidance regarding joint basing. Further, at the time of our audit, the Senor Installation Management Group (SIMG) only met as needed, but now meets quarterly to mitigate conflicts/disputes stemming from service policies, and to address any challenges resulting in inefficiencies and inequities regarding efforts to consolidate installation-support functions. DOD noted that it would send us a copy of the handbook when it is issued and could provide a copy of the minutes from the March and June SIMG used to document the meetings. After we receive this documentation, it will help address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To assist the joint bases in achieving additional opportunities to consolidate installation-support functions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), in coordination with the military services and joint bases, to take policy actions, as appropriate--such as issuing additional guidance--to address any challenges resulting in inefficiencies and inequities regarding efforts to consolidate installation-support functions including, at a minimum, those identified in this report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 10, 2015, DOD had not completed any actions that would allow us to close this recommendation. DOD non-concurred with the recommendation and has not planned any further actions to address the recommendation. DOD stated that the department and GAO have fundamentally different approaches in viewing how DOD should manage joint bases, and noted that the recommendations imply that joint bases are OSD-run entities that should be addressed through new DOD policies. DOD stated that it believes that although joint bases involve added complexities from crossing traditional military service lines, they are ultimately service-run bases similar to all other installations. As such, DOD stated that its position is to continue to agree to disagree regarding this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure DOD's approach to joint basing aligns with the intent of the 2005 BRAC recommendation and DOD's current position on the intent of joint basing, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), in collaboration with the military services and joint bases, to evaluate the purpose of the program and determine whether DOD's current goals of achieving greater efficiencies and generating cost savings for the joint basing program, as stated in the 2005 BRAC Commission recommendation, are still appropriate or whether goals should be revised, and communicate these goals to the military services and joint bases and then adjust program activities accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 10, 2015, DOD had not completed any actions that would allow us to close this recommendation. DOD non-concurred with the recommendation and has not planned any further actions to address the recommendation. DOD stated that the department and GAO have fundamentally different approaches in viewing how DOD should manage joint bases, and noted that the recommendations imply that joint bases are OSD-run entities that should be addressed through new DOD policies. DOD stated that it believes that although joint bases involve added complexities from crossing traditional military service lines, they are ultimately service-run bases similar to all other installations. As such, DOD stated that its position is to continue to agree to disagree regarding this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure DOD's approach to joint basing aligns with the intent of the 2005 BRAC recommendation and DOD's current position on the intent of joint basing, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), in collaboration with the military services and joint bases, to, subsequent to the evaluation above, provide direction to joint bases on their requirements for meeting the joint base program's goals. DOD's leadership should work with the military services to determine what reporting requirements and milestones should be put in place to increase support and commitment for the program's goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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