Military Readiness:

DOD Has Not Incorporated Leading Practices of a Strategic Management Planning Framework in Retrograde and Reset Guidance

GAO-17-530R: Published: Jun 9, 2017. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 2017.

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Cary B. Russell
(202) 512-5431
russellc@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

DOD has not established a strategic policy for retrograde and reset that is consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning. In May 2016, GAO recommended that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics establish a strategic policy that incorporates elements of leading practices for sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of equipment used in support of overseas contingency operations. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation but did not agree that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics should be the lead organization for developing this policy. DOD stated that it would instead select the appropriate organization to lead the development of a strategic policy. In the current review, GAO found that DOD had not yet determined which office would lead such an effort, and there was no consensus among the officials GAO spoke with regarding which organization should lead the effort to establish this strategic policy. GAO continues to believe that without a strategic policy for retrograde and reset that incorporates key elements of strategic management planning, DOD cannot ensure that its efforts to develop retrograde and reset guidance will provide the necessary strategic planning framework to inform the military services' plans for retrograde and reset.

DOD has not developed and required the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in policy and guidance. GAO recommended in May 2016 that DOD develop and require the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in relevant policy and other guidance. However, descriptions of retrograde and reset still vary, and the services use the same terms differently. GAO continues to believe that if DOD does not ensure the use of consistent terms--especially retrograde and reset--and descriptions in policy and other departmental documents used to inform budget estimates on retrograde and reset, Congress may not receive the consistent and accurate information that it needs to make informed decisions concerning retrograde and reset.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force have not developed implementation plans. GAO recommended in its May 2016 report that the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force develop service-specific implementation plans for retrograde and reset that incorporate elements of leading practices for sound strategic management planning. However, as of March 2017, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have not developed plans for the retrograde and reset of their equipment and do not have plans to do so, according to service officials. GAO continues to believe that Army, Navy, and Air Force service-specific implementation plans that articulate goals and strategies for retrograde and reset of equipment are important and reinforce the need for DOD to establish a strategic policy consistent with leading practices to guide and inform the services' plans. 

Why GAO Did This Study

Following operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense (DOD) is in the process of reconstituting forces to a desired level of combat effectiveness in line with current mission requirements and available resources. Reconstitution is a broad term that generally refers to the process of making a unit or activity available for operational commitment again after a contingency or surge operation. Retrograde refers to the movement of non-unit equipment and materiel from a forward location to a reset program or to another directed area of operations. Reset, which is part of reconstitution, refers to a set of actions to restore equipment to a desired level of combat capability commensurate with a unit's future mission.

Section 324 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 included provisions for DOD to establish a policy and implementation plan on matters related to retrograde and reset efforts for forces used to support overseas contingency operations and for GAO to review DOD's policy and plan. In May 2016, GAO completed its initial annual review and made three recommendations to DOD. For this report on DOD's second annual report, GAO evaluated the extent to which DOD has addressed GAO's May 2016 recommendations. Specifically, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) DOD has established a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of operating forces that support overseas contingency operations, (2) DOD has developed and required the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in relevant policy and other guidance, and (3) each of the services has developed and implemented a service-specific plan consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of operating forces that support overseas contingency operations. GAO reviewed DOD reports, interviewed officials, and assessed documents to determine what progress DOD has made toward establishing a strategic policy and implementation plans for retrograde and reset efforts that are consistent with leading practices.

What GAO Recommends

GAO continues to believe that DOD should implement its prior recommendations.

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

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