Marine Corps Asia Pacific Realignment:

DOD Should Resolve Capability Deficiencies and Infrastructure Risks and Revise Cost Estimates

GAO-17-415: Published: Apr 5, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 5, 2017.

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has coordinated the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to other locations in the Asia-Pacific region through developing a synchronization plan and organizing working groups. However, DOD has not resolved selected identified capability deficiencies related to the relocation of Marine units; training needs in the region; the reduction in runway length at the Futenma Replacement Facility in Okinawa; and challenges for operating in Australia. DOD guidance indicates that mission requirements—which would include the capabilities needed to fulfill the mission—largely determine land and facility support requirements. If DOD does not resolve the selected identified capability deficiencies in its infrastructure plans, DOD may be unable to maintain its capabilities or face much higher costs to do so.

DOD has taken steps to develop infrastructure plans and schedules for its relocation efforts, but it did not develop a reliable schedule for the Marine relocation to Guam and has not completed its risk planning for infrastructure in Guam. DOD developed plans that will support construction efforts in Guam and Japan, and developed some initial infrastructure plans for Hawaii and Australia. However, GAO found the Marines Corps' integrated master schedule for Guam did not fully meet the comprehensive, well-constructed, and credible characteristics for a reliable schedule. For example, the schedule does not include resources needed for nonconstruction activities, such as information technology and design activities. Additionally, the Marine Corps has not completed its risk-management plan for infrastructure construction in Guam. Specifically, the Marine Corps has not identified its strategy to address construction risks including labor shortages and endangered-species protection. If DOD does not have a reliable schedule or has not completed risk planning for Guam, it may not have complete information to identify and address risks that may result in cost overruns and schedule delays.

DOD has made progress in developing cost estimates for Guam, but its estimates partially met GAO best practices for reliable cost estimates for the relocations to Guam and Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia. For cost estimates related to Guam military construction activities, DOD included ground rules and assumptions, but did not include some elements of a reliable cost estimate, such as a risk analysis. Additionally, DOD developed cost estimates for nonmilitary construction activities that provide a high-level planning overview of the requirements, but they did not incorporate several other best practices, including a unifying Work Breakdown Structure that defines in detail the work necessary to accomplish a program's objectives. For Hawaii and Australia, the cost estimates are not considered reliable because they did not include all life-cycle costs or a Work Breakdown Structure. If DOD does not revise the cost estimates for these locations, decision makers in DOD and Congress will not have reliable cost information to inform funding decisions and to help them determine the viability of relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia.

Why GAO Did This Study

For two decades, DOD has planned to realign its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Marine Corps has plans to consolidate bases in Okinawa, relocating 4,100 Marines to Guam, 2,700 to Hawaii, 800 to the continental United States, and a rotational presence of 1,300 to Australia.

The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, included a provision that GAO study the realignment initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. This report assesses the extent to which DOD has (1) coordinated its efforts and resolved selected identified capability deficiencies related to the relocation of Marines, (2) developed infrastructure plans and schedules and completed risk planning for its infrastructure that will support the relocation, and (3) developed reliable cost estimates for infrastructure for the relocation of Marines to Guam and Hawaii and the rotational presence in Australia. GAO reviewed relevant policies and plans; analyzed cost documents; interviewed DOD officials; and visited U.S. military installations in the Asia-Pacific region.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD resolve capability deficiencies in the four selected identified areas, update its schedule for Guam infrastructure, complete a risk-management plan for Guam infrastructure, and revise its three cost estimates. DOD concurred with two recommendations, partially concurred with six, and did not concur with one. GAO continues to believe its recommendations are valid, as discussed in this report.

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

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that the Marine Corps' plans for movement of units from Okinawa to Guam has considered many factors, including, among others, the capabilities required to support Pacific Command and the logistical requirements associated with the movement of forces. In its response, DOD stated that the Marine Corps is already working to ensure that its plan is continually refined to balance fiscal and construction realities with operational risk, capability requirements, and readiness. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in the movement of Marine Corps units by, for example, reconsidering when units should move to Guam to minimize leaving facilities vacant.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that it has already conducted an extensive analysis of training needs. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in training needs in Iwakuni, Hawaii, and CNMI by, for example, identifying other suitable training areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that it disagreed that the length of the runway planned at the Futenma Replacement Facility is a capability deficiency for the Marine Corps. DOD stated that, at the time of its agreement with Japan, it understood that the Futenma Replacement Facility would not possess a long runway and that the Marine Corps drove the final requirements to support the capabilities required for their missions at the Futenma Replacement Facility. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in reduction in runway length at the Futenma Replacement Facility by, for example, selecting other runways that would support mission requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that these factors are not capability deficiencies but rather real-world constraints around which DOD and Australia are working to develop the most bilaterally beneficial annual program possible. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in challenges in Australia regarding seasonal changes and biosecurity requirements that affect equipment downtime by, for example, deciding on a location for the wet season and identifying a solution for biosecurity requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and stated it has begun updating its integrated master schedule based on our review to conform to the GAO Schedule Assessment Guide and plans to adopt the best practices of assigning resources and establishing activity durations to ensure the schedule is comprehensive. In its response, DOD also stated it plans to continue to work to verify that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically and conduct a schedule risk analysis. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD with reliable information on potential sources of delays for the design and construction of infrastructure in Guam, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to update the Marine Corps' integrated master schedule for Guam so that it meets the comprehensive, well-constructed, and credible characteristics for a reliable schedule. For example, the update to the schedule should include resources for nonconstruction activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and identified plans to mitigate risks for infrastructure construction and sustainment, such as coordinating with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address foreign-worker visas, approving an explosive-safety exemption for construction projects in Guam and CNMI, and developing a monitoring and mitigation tracking plan to ensure Navy compliance and execution of environmental requirements. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with sufficient information to mitigate risks for infrastructure construction and sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to complete a Risk Management Plan for Guam, and include, at a minimum, plans to address: (1) construction labor shortages, (2) explosive--ordnance detection, (3) cultural-artifact discovery and preservation, and (4) protection of endangered species.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD nonconcurred with this recommendation and stated that the department does not accept the assertion that GAO's best practices are universally applicable to a wide range of activities that includes military construction, acquisition, or basing. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Guam, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to revise the cost estimates for Guam to address all best practices established by GAO's cost estimating guide. Specifically, the revisions to the cost estimates should include: a unifying Work Breakdown Structure, risk and sensitivity analyses, and an independent cost estimate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. In its response, the department agreed that good cost estimating practices are prudent for good decision making but did not agree that it should expend effort to update its cost estimates for the Hawaii program due to reasons of timing. Specifically, DOD stated that, for Hawaii, high-level cost estimates are sufficient at this early planning stage and a detailed Work Breakdown Structure is not needed. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to revise the DOD cost estimates for Hawaii to address all best practices for the comprehensive characteristic established by the GAO cost estimating guide, specifically to capture entire life-cycle costs and develop a Work Breakdown Structure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. In its response, the department agreed that good cost estimating practices are prudent for good decision making but did not agree that it should expend effort to update its cost estimates for the Australia program due to reasons of international agreements. Specifically, DOD stated in its response that, for Australia, the costs borne by DOD under this program will be subject to international agreement rather than the GAO cost estimating guide. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia, the Secretary of Defense should revise the DOD cost estimates for Australia to address all best practices for the comprehensive characteristic established by the GAO cost estimating guide, specifically to capture entire life-cycle costs and develop a Work Breakdown Structure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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