Defense Management:

Actions Needed to Ensure National Guard and Reserve Headquarters Are Sized to be Efficient

GAO-14-71: Published: Nov 12, 2013. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 2013.

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What GAO Found

Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, the total number of funded positions--both full-time support and part-time--at the Department of Defense's (DOD) 75 Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve (Reserves) component headquarters grew from about 30,200 to 31,900 positions (about 6 percent overall). Some organizations grew more markedly, among them the National Guard Bureau (17 percent); Army National Guard Directorate (44 percent); Air National Guard Readiness Center (21 percent); and the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve (45 percent). DOD officials attribute growth to the conversion of contractor workload into civilian positions and increased missions assigned at certain headquarters. Over the same period, staff levels at the National Guard's 54 state Joint Force headquarters remained flat and the Air Force Reserve shrank by 4 percent.

DOD has processes in place that are intended to ensure that the number of funded positions at its reserve-component headquarters are set at the minimum level needed to accomplish their mission, but it has not consistently followed those processes at 68 of the 75 headquarters that GAO reviewed. As a result, DOD is unable to determine whether National Guard and Reserve headquarters are sized to be efficient. The National Guard has begun evaluating some personnel requirements, but its efforts do not fully address the management issues GAO identified:

  • The National Guard Bureau, which may continue to grow to accommodate its Chief's placement on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is determining its own requirements without external validation. This is inconsistent with Joint Staff, Army, and Air Force processes, which generally involve an external review. In addition, Congress's ability to oversee the bureau's size is limited because DOD's annual report on its Major DOD Headquarters Activities does not include data on the bureau and its more than 600 staff.
  • The National Guard has not fully assessed its 54 state headquarters--which contain nearly 21,900 funded positions--since the 1980s. GAO's prior work shows that agencies can reduce costs by consolidating and centralizing functions and eliminating unneeded duplication. The National Guard Bureau, Army National Guard Directorate, and Air National Guard Readiness Center each assess a portion of the state headquarters, but there is no process to assess the headquarters' personnel requirements in their entirety and ongoing efforts do not provide a holistic review.
  • The Army and Air Force have not fully reassessed 13 of the 20 reserve component headquarters for which they are responsible. The Army has a reassessment backlog, and the Air Force does not require periodic reassessments and reassesses its headquarters on an ad hoc basis. Some headquarters with significant growth are among those that have not been reassessed, including the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve and the Air National Guard Readiness Center. In contrast, 5 of the 7 reassessed organizations subsequently reduced their staff levels such as the Air Force Reserve's three numbered air forces, which have shrunk by more than a third since 2009. The Army and Air Force agree their headquarters should be reassessed, but they have not scheduled reassessments across their reserve components.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has sought to reduce costs by assessing headquarters and overhead functions. Both the Army and Air Force have two reserve components--a National Guard and Reserve--that have at least 75 headquarters located throughout the United States, its territories, and overseas that manage subordinate units or perform overhead functions. These headquarters have a mix of full-time and part-time personnel. GAO was asked to review issues related to reserve-component headquarters. This report (1) discusses trends in funded positions at reservecomponent headquarters and (2) evaluates the extent to which DOD has established and implemented processes to efficiently size its reservecomponent headquarters. To do so, GAO reviewed statutes and DOD guidance, analyzed personnel data and headquarters assessments, and interviewed DOD and state officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD externally validate the National Guard Bureau’s personnel requirements and include the bureau in its annual report to Congress; reassess requirements for the 54 state Joint Force headquarters; and develop schedules for reassessing headquarters overseen by the Army and Air Force. DOD concurred with recommendations to report data to Congress and establish schedules for reassessing headquarters and partially concurred with recommendations to externally validate the bureau’s personnel requirements and assess requirements for the state Joint Force headquarters. GAO continues to believe these recommendations are valid as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-3489 or pendletonj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2015, DOD has not yet fully implemented this recommendation. DOD provided documentation that the National Guard Bureau's headquarters personnel requirements were recently assessed in January 2015 by a Joint Study Team comprised of members from the U.S. Army Manpower Analysis Agency (USAMAA) and Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC). However, this review was completed at the request of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and DOD has not established a requirement for the Bureau to be reassessed periodically moving forward, as was recommended in our report. Given the absence of a requirement to have an outside agency periodically validate the National Guard Bureau's personnel requirements DOD has not yet acted to fully implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To facilitate oversight of the size of DOD's reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, and to independently validate the personnel requirements for the National Guard Bureau, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to implement the Joint Chief of Staff's Joint Manpower and Personnel Process and have its personnel requirements periodically validated by a DOD organization external to the National Guard Bureau.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2015 DOD has not taken actions to address this recommendation. DOD officials stated that revision of DoDI 5100.73 is still underway. Officials noted that they intend to include personnel requirements information for the National Guard Bureau in the fiscal year 2016 Defense Manpower Requirements Report as part of the Army's and Air Force's major headquarters activity data.

    Recommendation: To facilitate oversight of the size of DOD's reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, and to provide Congress the data it requires to oversee DOD's Major DOD Headquarters Activities, the Secretary of Defense should include the National Guard Bureau among its list of Major DOD Headquarters Activities and report personnel associated with the National Guard Bureau in the Defense Manpower Requirements Report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2015, DOD has not yet implemented this recommendation. The National Guard Bureau was not able to provide documentation that it had acted to develop a process to determine personnel requirements for joint functions at the Army National Guard and Air National Guard headquarters.

    Recommendation: To facilitate oversight of the size of DOD's reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, and to minimize the potential for gaps or overlaps at the National Guard's state Joint Force headquarters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to develop a process for the Army National Guard and Air National Guard to collaborate when determining personnel requirements for joint functions at these headquarters.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2015, DOD has not yet implemented this recommendation. The National Guard Bureau was not able to provide documentation that it had acted to develop a process to determine personnel requirements for joint functions at the Army National Guard and Air National Guard headquarters.

    Recommendation: To facilitate oversight of the size of DOD's reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, and to minimize the potential for gaps or overlaps at the National Guard's state Joint Force headquarters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to assess and validate all personnel requirements at the state Joint Force headquarters to include the Army staff element and Air staff element.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has taken steps to facilitate oversight of its reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, as we recommended in Defense Management: Actions Needed to Ensure National Guard and Reserve Headquarters Are Sized to be Efficient (GAO-14-71). In that report, we found that 12 of the Army's 14 reserve component headquarters had not had their personnel requirements fully assessed and validated in the prior five years--despite Army regulations requiring that these headquarters be reassessed not less than every 5 years and optimally every 3 years. We recommended that the Army ensure that its reserve component headquarters are reassessed by having their personnel requirements validated within required time frames by including them in the U.S. Army Manpower Analysis Agency's (USAMAA) schedule for reassessment and validation. The Army agreed with our recommendation and identified three ongoing efforts to assess its reserve component headquarters. In May 2015, the Army provided documentation showing that it had completed assessments for five of its headquarters within the last five years as required by Army guidance. Additionally, the Army provided a copy of USAMAA's schedule that shows timeframes for assessing and validating the personnel requirements at the Army's nine remaining headquarters. The Army stated that it took these actions in part due to our report and recommendations. The Army's actions address our recommendation, and as a result the Army will be better able to oversee personnel requirements at these headquarters and ensure that it is allocating the minimum personnel needed for these headquarters to accomplish their assigned missions.

    Recommendation: To facilitate oversight of the size of DOD's reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, and to ensure that Army Reserve headquarters and the Army National Guard Directorate are properly sized to meet their assigned missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to ensure that these headquarters are reassessed and have their personnel requirements validated within required time frames by including them in the U.S. Army Manpower Analysis Agency's schedule for reassessment and validation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As of May 2015, the Air Force had taken the steps needed to implement this recommendation. The Air Force updated instruction 38-201 to require at least bi-annual assessments of all reserve component headquarters. This instruction requires the Air Force to reassess all of its major headquarters activities (headquarters, Air Force Reserve; Air Force Reserve Command; and the Air National Guard Readiness Center) at least biannually. Additionally, the instruction requires that the Air National Guard Readiness Center and the Air Force Reserve Command Develop and maintain a schedule for the bi-annual assessment of subordinate headquarters to determine their full-time manpower requirements. By revising this instruction to require bi-annual assessment of these headquarters DOD has taken the steps needed to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To facilitate oversight of the size of DOD's reserve-component headquarters and ensure that they have the minimum personnel needed to complete their assigned missions, and to ensure that Air Force Reserve headquarters and the Air National Guard Readiness Center are properly sized to meet their assigned missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to modify the Air Force's guidance to require that these headquarters have their personnel requirements reassessed on a recurring basis, and establish and implement a schedule for reassessing personnel requirements for its reserve-component headquarters.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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