Chemical and Biological Defense:

Designated Entity Needed to Identify, Align, and Manage DOD's Infrastructure

GAO-15-257: Published: Jun 25, 2015. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2015.

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What GAO Found

A key component of the 26 Department of Defense (DOD) organizations that constitute the Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) Enterprise is the chemical and biological defense research and development and test and evaluation infrastructure. After nearly 7 years, the CBDP Enterprise has not fully achieved its goal to identify required infrastructure capabilities. The Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Program Analysis and Integration Office (PAIO), CBDP's analytical arm, recommended in 2008 that the CBDP Enterprise identify required infrastructure capabilities, such as laboratories to research chemical and biological agents, to ensure alignment of the infrastructure to its mission. CBDP Enterprise officials recognize the importance, validity, and necessity of addressing the 2008 recommendation. The CBDP Enterprise has made limited progress in achieving this infrastructure goal because CBDP Enterprise officials told GAO that they were focused on higher priorities and had no CBDP Enterprise-wide impetus to address the infrastructure recommendations. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs previously identified the need for an entity that has the responsibility and authority needed to ensure achievement of this goal, but DOD has not designated such an entity. By identifying and designating an entity with the responsibility and authority to lead infrastructure transformation, the CBDP Enterprise would be better positioned to achieve this goal.

The CBDP Enterprise has taken some actions at its laboratories to identify duplication in its chemical and biological defense infrastructure. DOD directives outline goals, such as to avoid duplication by using existing DOD and other federal agencies' facilities. As part of an ongoing study to identify required infrastructure, in July 2015 PAIO plans to inventory and analyze CBDP Enterprise infrastructure for potential duplication. However, study officials stated that they do not plan to identify, request, or consider information about infrastructure capabilities from existing studies of other federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, because their office does not have the authority or resources to require such information. By considering existing information, which would not necessarily require new authority, PAIO will have more information about existing infrastructure inventory across the federal government, such as its capability and potential availability for use.

The CBDP Enterprise used threat data and plans to use threat data and the results from risk assessments piloted in 2014 to support its future portfolio planning process to prioritize research and development investment. However, the CBDP Enterprise has not updated its guidance and planning process to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments. Federal standards for internal control state that agencies should have written procedures to better ensure leadership directives are implemented. According to CBDP Enterprise officials, while updating the guidance would be beneficial, they had not committed to updating such guidance or established a time frame for doing so. By updating its guidance to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments, the CBDP Enterprise would be better positioned to prioritize future research and development investments.

Why GAO Did This Study

The United States faces current and emerging chemical and biological threats, and defenses against these threats enable DOD to protect the force, preclude strategic gains by adversaries, and reduce risk to U.S. interests.

GAO was asked to review DOD efforts to manage its chemical and biological defense infrastructure capabilities. This report examines the extent to which the CBDP Enterprise has: (1) achieved its goal to identify required infrastructure capabilities to address current and emerging chemical and biological threats; (2) identified, addressed, and managed potential fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in its chemical and biological defense infrastructure; and (3) used and plans to use threat data and the results of risk assessments to support its investment planning for chemical and biological defense. GAO analyzed CBDP infrastructure policies, plans, and studies from organizations across the CBDP Enterprise from fiscal years 2008 through 2014.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends, among other things, that DOD (1) designate an entity to lead the effort to identify required infrastructure; (2) identify, request, and consider any information from chemical and biological infrastructure studies of other federal agencies to avoid potential duplication; and (3) update the CBDP Enterprise's guidance and planning process to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments. DOD concurred with all five of GAO's recommendations and discussed actions it plans to take.

For more information, contact Joseph Kirschbaum at (202) 512-9971 or kirschbaumj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. On 6/8/16, DOD reported that the Department concurs that an entity needs to lead the effort to ensure achievement of the infrastructure goals; further, DOD believes that these responsibilities and authorities are currently in place under existing laws and regulations. The 2012 Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) Strategic Plan identified one of the four strategic goals of the CBDP to maintain infrastructure to meet and adapt current and future needs for personnel, equipment, and facilities within funding constraints. To achieve this goal, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs and the U.S. Army, as the Executive Agent for Chemical and Biological Defense, share responsibility to ensure achievement of CBDPs strategic infrastructure goals in close collaboration and coordination with the infrastructure managers (the individual installation commanders and directors of the facilities). The Department is in the process of revising DOD Directive 5160.05E and will ensure that the directive appropriately captures the roles and responsibilities related to CBDP infrastructure capabilities. In addition, on March 23, 2016, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics named the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense as the Infrastructure Manager to provide overall coordination, integration, and oversight functions for the Chemical and Biological Defense Program infrastructure. With this action, DOD met both the intent and letter of the recommendation, and it is considered closed implemented.

    Recommendation: To improve the identification, alignment, and management of DOD's chemical and biological defense infrastructure and to help ensure that the CBDP Enterprise's infrastructure is properly aligned to address current and emerging chemical and biological threats, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate DOD officials to identify and designate an entity within the CBDP Enterprise with the responsibility and authority to lead the effort to ensure achievement of the infrastructure goals (e.g., the four 2008 PAIO recommendations, including the recommendation that the CBDP Enterprise identify its required infrastructure capabilities, and the goal established in the 2012 CBDP Business Plan).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. Subsequent to the issuance of GAO-15-257, the Conference Report that accompanied the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (House Report 114-270, September 29, 2015) required DOD to identify an infrastructure manager for DOD?s Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP), consistent with GAO-15-257. In our subsequent July 2017 report entitled Chemical and Biological Defense: DOD Has Identified an Infrastructure Manager and Is Developing the Position's Roles and Responsibilities (GAO-17-522R), we reported that officials with DOD's CBDP Enterprise said DOD also has developed and is implementing a three-phased process led by a working-level integrated product team--scheduled to take place over a 3-year period, ending in calendar year 2018--to identify and define the roles and responsibilities for the CBDP Infrastructure Manager. Specifically, phase one, which clarified the Infrastructure Manager's roles and responsibilities regarding the management of physical infrastructure, was completed in October 2016. It resulted in an updated draft of DOD Directive 5160.05E, Roles and Responsibilities Associated with the Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) and draft infrastructure management guidance entitled, Chemical and Biological Defense Program Infrastructure Management Functions and Responsibilities. Phase two, which is scheduled for completion by the end of calendar year 2017, is focused on implementing decisions made in phase one; clarifying the Infrastructure Manager's roles and responsibilities regarding physical and intellectual infrastructure in relationship with other federal agencies' respective roles and responsibilities; and developing an infrastructure strategic investment plan. Finally, phase three, which should be completed by the end of calendar year 2018, is to clarify the Infrastructure Manager's roles and responsibilities regarding CBDP intellectual infrastructure, specifically its availability to the CBDP. Based upon the evidence provided in GAO-17-522R, we believe that these planned phases serve as established timelines and milestones for achieving identified chemical and biological infrastructure goals. With this action, DOD met both the intent and letter of the recommendation, and it is considered closed implemented.

    Recommendation: To improve the identification, alignment, and management of DOD's chemical and biological defense infrastructure and to help ensure that the CBDP Enterprise's infrastructure is properly aligned to address current and emerging chemical and biological threats, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate DOD officials to establish timelines and milestones for achieving identified chemical and biological infrastructure goals, including implementation of the 2008 PAIO recommendation that the CBDP Enterprise identify its required infrastructure capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation but has not yet completed actions to implement it. As of August 2017, DOD was still waiting to release the final version of DOO Directive 5160.05E.

    Recommendation: To improve the identification, alignment, and management of DOD's chemical and biological defense infrastructure and to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments to support future investment decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to update the roles and responsibilities guidance in DOD Directive 5160.05E to identify which organizations are responsible for conducting and participating in CBDP Enterprise risk assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation but has not yet completed actions to implement it. On 6/8/16, DOD reported that the risk assessment process was initially piloted in 2014 to determine its utility for informing CBDP Enterprise portfolio planning and guidance. Moving forward, the CBDP Enterprise plans to conduct risk assessments annually to support portfolio planning and guidance. As of August 2017, DOD reported that the department was beginning an approximately 12-month process to revise the CBDP Business Plan, which would likely be published as a DOD Instruction. This plan should address the risk assessment recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the identification, alignment, and management of DOD's chemical and biological defense infrastructure and to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments to support future investment decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to update the CBDP Enterprise's portfolio planning process, to include when risk assessments will be conducted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation but has not yet completed actions to implement it. As of July 2017, DOD has requested, but not received, such studies from other federal agencies. However, DOD is currently engaged in phase two of a three-phase effort regarding its chemical and biological defense infrastructure program (CBDP), which includes a review of the department's interagency roles and responsibilities for its chemical and biological defense Infrastructure Manager. Targeted completion for this phase is December 2017, at which time, DOD may have obtained relevant information from other federal agencies.

    Recommendation: To improve the identification, alignment, and management of DOD's chemical and biological defense infrastructure and to enhance PAIO's ongoing analysis of potential infrastructure duplication in the CBDP Enterprise and gain potential efficiencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to identify, request, and consider any information from existing infrastructure studies from other federal agencies with chemical and biological research and development and test and evaluation infrastructure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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