Defense Logistics:

DOD Has a Strategy and Has Taken Steps to Improve Its Asset Visibility, but Further Actions Are Needed

GAO-15-148: Published: Jan 27, 2015. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 2015.

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Zina Dache Merritt
(202) 512-5257
merrittz@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

In January 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued its Strategy for Improving DOD Asset Visibility (Strategy) and supporting execution plans (SEP), which included five of the seven key elements of a comprehensive strategic plan and partially included the other two elements. For example, the Strategy fully includes a comprehensive mission statement; a problem definition, scope, and methodology; goals and objectives; activities, milestones, and performance measures; and organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination. However, 4 of the 22 SEPs, which outline initiatives intended to improve asset visibility, did not address resources and investments and key external factors. DOD officials told GAO that this information would be added during regular updates to the Strategy . Since the Strategy was issued, DOD components have begun updating the SEPs to include informationsuch as costs and key external factorsthat had been missing from the SEPs included in the Strategy .

DOD has taken steps to improve its asset visibility, and GAO's assessment is that the department has fully met one of the five criteria for removal from the High-Risk List—leadership commitment—and partially met the other four, as shown below.

Extent to Which DOD's Efforts to Improve Asset Visibility Meet GAO's High-Risk Criteria

Criteria

Description

GAO's assessmentª

Leadership commitment

Demonstrate strong commitment and top leadership support

Capacity

Demonstrate the capacity (i.e., the people and other resources) to resolve the risks

Corrective action plan

A corrective action plan exists that defines the root causes and solutions and provides for substantially completing corrective measures, including steps necessary to implement the solutions GAO recommended

Monitoring

Program instituted to monitor and independently validate the effectiveness and sustainability of corrective measures

Demonstrated progress

Ability to demonstrate progress in having implemented corrective measures and resolving the High-Risk area

Legend: ● Fully met ◐ Partially met

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. | GAO-15-148

ªFully met indicates that all parts of the criterion were fully addressed. Partially met indicates that some, but not all, aspects of the criterion were addressed. Related to demonstrating capacity, DOD has begun to identify the resources and investments required to achieve the Strategy 's goals and objectives, but the Strategy and accompanying SEPs do not include detail on the elements used in developing cost estimates for the individual initiatives. Further, while the Strategy and SEPs serve as a corrective-action plan, there is not a clear link between the performance measures for the initiatives and the Strategy 's goals and objectives, and DOD has not yet developed a process for determining whether implementing its initiatives is helping it to achieve these goals and objectives. Until these criteria are satisfied, the department will have limited ability to demonstrate measurable progress towards achieving progress in improving its asset visibility.

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO designated DOD's supply chain management as a high-risk area and in July 2011 found that limitations in asset visibility make it difficult to obtain timely and accurate information on assets that are present in a theater of operations. In 2013, GAO found that DOD had made moderate progress in addressing weaknesses in its supply chain management and identified several actions that DOD should take to strengthen asset visibility, including completing and implementing its strategy for coordinating efforts to improve asset visibility across the department.

This report examined the extent to which DOD has (1) a comprehensive strategy and implementation plans for improving asset visibility; and (2) made improvements in asset visibility that meet GAO's criteria for removal from the High-Risk List. GAO reviewed DOD's 2014 Strategy and initiatives for improving asset visibility and evaluated DOD's actions to improve asset visibility against GAO's criteria for determining and removing high risk designations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends four actions to improve DOD's management of asset visibility. The actions include, among other things, that DOD include information in its S trategy and SEPs on elements used to develop cost estimates; clearly link performance measures for the initiatives and the Strategy's goals and objectives; and demonstrate that the initiatives are resulting in measurable outcomes and progress toward meeting the goals and objectives in the Strategy . DOD agreed with all the recommendations.

For more information, contact Zina Merritt at (202) 512-5257 or merrittz@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its 2015 update to its Strategy for Improving DOD Asset Visibility, issued in October 2015, DOD provided guidance instructing the components to include cost estimates in their supporting execution plans and to include at least the categories of manpower, materiel, and sustainment in these estimates of cost. DOD also states in the 2015 Strategy that, "in its efforts to reduce supply chain risk, the Department has been assisted by reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)".

    Recommendation: To demonstrate the capacity to implement the initiatives intended to improve asset visibility, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in collaboration with the components, to include information in subsequent updates to the Strategy and accompanying SEPs about which elements--such as human capital, information technology, and contracts--were used in developing cost estimates for resources and investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 2015, DOD issued its 2015 update to its Strategy for Improving DOD Asset Visibility. In the 2015 Strategy, DOD includes graphics showing a summary of the initiatives in that plan and their alignment to the Strategy's goals and objectives. Further, the Strategy acknowledges that, "in its efforts to reduce supply chain risk, the Department has been assisted by reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)".

    Recommendation: To implement a corrective action plan that defines the root causes, identifies effective solutions, and provides for substantially completing corrective actions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to clearly specify the linkage between the goals and objectives in the Strategy and the initiatives intended to implement the Strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2016, DOD has not implemented this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To develop and implement a process to monitor performance and independently validate the effectiveness and sustainability of corrective actions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to assess, and refine as appropriate, existing performance measures to ensure the measures assess the implementation of individual initiatives as well as progress towards achievement of the overarching goals and objectives in the Strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2016, DOD has not implemented this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To demonstrate sustained progress in having implemented corrective measures, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in collaboration with the military services, to continue the implementation of identified initiatives, refining them over time as appropriate, and demonstrate that implementation of initiatives results in measurable outcomes and progress toward achieving improvements in asset visibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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