Prepositioned Stocks:

Marine Corps Needs to Improve Cost Estimate Reliability and Oversight of Inventory Systems for Equipment in Norway

GAO-15-651: Published: Sep 17, 2015. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 2015.

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Cary Russell
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russellc@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Marine Corps is changing its mix of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway (MCPP-N) to address the U.S. European and U.S. Africa commands' strategic and theater-specific operational requirements. U.S. European Command's posture plan identifies MCPP-N as a key program that can respond to contingencies. While U.S. Africa Command plans that refer to a need to access prepositioned equipment do not specifically identify MCPP-N as an asset to meet that need, both Marine Corps and U.S. Africa Command officials stated that MCPP-N has served and can continue to serve as a global support asset to meet combatant command requirements. The Marine Corps reported that it routinely uses MCPP-N equipment sets to support European and Africa training and exercises.

Marine Corps cost estimates for sustaining the equipment to support a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability at MCPP-N may not be fully reliable, in that they do not fully meet the four general characteristics for reliable cost estimating—that is, being accurate, well-documented, credible, and comprehensive. For example, the Marine Corps documented its cost estimates, but the documentation did not include the source data used to develop the estimates or the calculations performed and estimating methodologies used. Marine Corps officials stated that they are drafting guidance for developing cost estimates for budget plans and plan to issue it in the fall of 2015, but this guidance will not address the four general characteristics for reliable cost estimating. Without ensuring that this guidance fully addresses those characteristics, the Marine Corps will not be positioned to know whether its budget proposals will meet the goal of sustaining equipment for a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability at MCCP-N.

The Marine Corps could improve its quality assurance procedures for monitoring MCPP-N. Specifically, the service relies upon the Norwegian Equipment Information Management System for data needed to manage its equipment inventory due to limitations in its own system, such as the lack of a warehousing application to effectively manage MCPP-N equipment.The reliance on two different information systems, one of which is owned and operated by a foreign government, creates several management challenges and risks to data reliability for the Marine Corps. For example, it results in a time lag in the accuracy of information in the Marine Corps system until it is manually updated with information from the Norwegian system—a time-consuming process that introduces a vulnerability to errors. The Marine Corps and the Norwegians have taken some steps to mitigate these risks for the interim until the Marine Corps system is capable of replacing the Norwegian system. Additionally, relying on the Norwegian system for management information makes the Marine Corps vulnerable to any weaknesses that may exist within the Norwegian system. However, the Marine Corps has not conducted a quality assurance review of the Norwegian system. Performing such a review would constitute a key step toward mitigating potential weaknesses in the Norwegian system.

Why GAO Did This Study

MCPP-N was established in 1981 as part of a DOD agreement to support the defense of Norway and global U.S. Marine Corps expeditionary operations. In 2012 the Marine Corps began transforming MCPP-N from an engineering and transportation capability to a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability, which includes combat vehicles and other tactical equipment, and it expects to complete the transformation in 2016.

Senate Report 113-176 included a provision that GAO review MCPP-N. This report determines the extent to which (1) MCPP-N addresses U.S. European and U.S. Africa command requirements;(2) reliable cost estimates exist to fund MCPP-N's sustainment of equipment to support a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability; and (3) the Marine Corps has quality assurance procedures in place to monitor the management of MCPP-N. GAO reviewed agency guidance and plans, analyzed budget estimates, and interviewed Marine Corps, Department of State, and Norwegian Defence officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Marine Corps (1) incorporate the four characteristics of reliable cost estimates in the forthcoming prepositioning programs budget development policy; and (2) develop, in consultation with the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization, a means to conduct a quality assurance review of the Norwegian Equipment Information Management System. The Marine Corps concurred with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: Based on our review of DOD's database on DOD's actions addressing GAO recommendations and follow up with DOD officials, as of September 1, 2017, DOD has not yet addressed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better determine the costs needed to sustain the equipment to support a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability, the Commandant of the Marine Corps should direct the Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics to incorporate the four characteristics of reliable cost estimates in the Marine Corps' forthcoming prepositioning programs budget development policy, and specifically to ensure that estimates are accurate and well-documented, require all relevant departments and subordinate commands to provide documentation of cost-estimating details that include both source data and calculations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: United States Marine Corps

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: Based on our review of DOD's database on DOD's actions addressing GAO recommendations and follow up with DOD officials, as of September 1, 2017, DOD has not yet addressed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better determine the costs needed to sustain the equipment to support a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability, the Commandant of the Marine Corps should direct the Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics to incorporate the four characteristics of reliable cost estimates in the Marine Corps' forthcoming prepositioning programs budget development policy, and specifically to ensure that estimates are credible, implement management requirements to establish and conduct formal cross-checks of major cost elements among the relevant departments and subordinate commands to determine whether they are replicable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: United States Marine Corps

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: Based on our review of DOD's database on DOD's actions addressing GAO recommendations and follow up with DOD officials, as of September 1, 2017, DOD has not yet addressed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better determine the costs needed to sustain the equipment to support a Marine Air Ground Task Force capability, the Commandant of the Marine Corps should direct the Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics to incorporate the four characteristics of reliable cost estimates in the Marine Corps' forthcoming prepositioning programs budget development policy, and specifically to ensure that estimates are comprehensive, implement a standardized structure for collecting all the necessary details used to develop and support cost estimates from all relevant departments and subordinate commands.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: United States Marine Corps

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: Based on our review of DOD's database on DOD's actions addressing GAO recommendations and follow up with DOD officials, as of September 1, 2017, DOD has not yet addressed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: As part of its quality assurance program for ensuring that the Marine Corps has accurate and reliable information on inventory data for stored assets used to support combatant commanders' requirements, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, in consultation with the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization, should take steps to update the Technical Manual on Logistics Support for the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program - Norway and the Local Bilateral Agreement, to incorporate guidance and instructions on conducting a quality assurance review that assesses the accuracy and reliability of the Norwegian Equipment Information Management System.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: United States Marine Corps

 

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