Military Capabilities:

Focused Attention Needed to Prepare U.S. Forces for Combat in Urban Areas

NSIAD-00-63NI: Published: Feb 25, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 2000.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) Joint Chiefs of Staff's efforts to improve U.S. capabilities to conduct conventional combat operations in urban environments, focusing on: (1) determining the progress and identifying shortcomings in the areas of doctrine, training, and intelligence support to military operations conducted in urban environments; and (2) evaluating whether initiatives to improve U.S. capabilities to conduct military operations in urban settings are being adequately coordinated.

GAO noted that: (1) the military services are updating their urban doctrine to provide units with guidelines and techniques for performing combat operations in urban environments; (2) joint military doctrine, in which the services must fight together, is also being developed; (3) however, joint experimentation, which is designed to systematically evaluate what new doctrine, organizations, and equipment are needed for urban operations involving multiple services, is not taking place because plans have not been fully funded; (4) joint experimentation would complement individual service efforts by identifying shortfalls in capabilities the services need to effectively fight together; (5) because some problems are common to all services, joint experimentation may provide an economical approach to some issues; (6) the services are concentrating their urban training on individual soldiers and small units; (7) training standards that define the tasks, conditions, and performance measures needed to successfully accomplish a mission have not been developed for all types of units; (8) by focusing on individual training, the services have not yet proceeded to conduct urban training jointly; (9) although the services have plans for constructing new urban training facilities, they have not fully coordinated their plans; (10) service coordination is important and could help identify opportunities for service collaboration, facilitate joint training, and allow consideration of alternative training methods such as the use of simulation and civilian urban areas; (11) U.S. forces do not have adequate intelligence to plan and conduct urban operations, due to the lower priority the intelligence community has afforded urban warfare in its collection efforts; (12) shortfalls in urban intelligence, including detailed information on city transportation, communications, utilities, and other facilities, are especially significant for developing countries where the potential for U.S. urban operations appears greatest; (13) the absence of good intelligence for urban settings can impede military operations and leave forces vulnerable to ambushes, friendly fire incidents, and unacceptable levels of noncombatant casualties and collateral damage; (14) DOD has undertaken a number of key initiatives to address urban capability shortfalls and improve U.S. capabilities to conduct military operations in urban settings; and (15) however, these initiatives have not been fully coordinated among the services and suffer from the lack of a strong focal point to lead DOD's efforts.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct this designated entity to examine the potential for joint training facilities and whether simulation and existing military and civilian facilities might be used for some training purposes to reduce costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The executive agent for joint urban operations will explore the integration of constructive, virtual, and live urban operations as part of the Joint Level National Training Center. The DOD Joint Urban Operations Master Plan has been briefed to the Joint Requirements Board, and it is being scheduled for briefing to the IROC. A copy of the draft Master Plan, dated January 27, 2003 was provided in management response. Page 38 of the draft plan discusses training, people, and facilities. Specifically, the plan calls for development of urban capabilities of the Joint National Training Center and providing links to Service Training Centers. The Office of Coordinating Responsibility will include joint, Service, and OSD training organizations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct this designated entity to compile data estimates on the resources needed to carry out the strategy, recommend the priority to be assigned to various initiatives, determine the need to conduct joint concept development and experimentation focused on urban operations, and expedite development of training standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Joint Urban Working Group will publish the Handbook for Joint Operations in May 2000. With the Air Force as the lead agent for its development, the handbook will provide joint force commanders and their staffs with operational level information on planning and conducting joint urban operations. The LLW JWCA is currently conducting a joint urban operations training and training facilities study to address the issues highlighted in the report. The purpose of the study is to assess training requirements and capabilities for joint urban operations, identity shortfalls, and develop options to address any shortfalls. The LLW JWCA plans to present the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of this study to the JROC in January 2001. DOD will accomplish the actions recommended by GAO via the MOUT Roadmap. USJFCOM, as the EA for JUO is the designated agency responsible for compiling data estimates on resources needed for the strategy. Chapter 5, page 45 of the draft Master Plan provides resource requirements for fiscal years (FY) 03-05. Enclosure B, pages 50-63 provides the milestones through FY 06.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct this designated entity to develop an overarching, DOD-wide strategy for improving service and joint capabilities to conduct military operations in urban environments. Milestones and performance measures should accompany this strategy so that progress toward solving identified urban capability shortfalls can be monitored.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD is already taking steps toward development of such a strategy. Defense Planning guidance update to fiscal years (FY) 2002-2007 hopefully will direct the CJCS and ASD (STR) in conjunction with the USD (AT&L), ASD (SOLIC), ASC (C&I), and Director PA&E to develop a roadmap that integrates service and joint activities relating to joint urban activities. The joint urban roadmap will include recommendation for additional activities and subsequent analyses and will be presented to the DPAG in May 2001. An in-progress review will be presented to the DPAG by September 1, 2000. JWAP prevented a roadmap progress review to Acting Deputy ASD (R) and Assistant Deputy USD (DM). A draft roadmap is scheduled for coordination during FY02. A draft roadmap dated November 20, 2001 has been developed. If the SECDEF approves the JUO SSB with developing a DOD Master Plan for Joint Urban Operations the roadmap draft will serve as an input. A copy of draft "DOD Master Plan for Joint Urban Operations" dated January 27, 2003 was provided. The Master Plan is a DOD-wide strategy document from the SECDEF to the DOD components. It is intended to be a living document, integrating all activities related to joint urban operations. As EA, the CCJFCOM will be the DOD focal point for improving joint urban capabilities and will be responsible for leading the execution of the Master Plan.

    Recommendation: In response to a growing recognition that future military operations are likely to occur in urban environments and to congressional direction to improve the readiness of U.S. forces to conduct operations in such environments, the Secretary of Defense should designate an entity to lead and coordinate Joint Staff and service efforts to improve U.S. capabilities to conduct urban operations. The organizational options suggested by the joint Urban Working Group should be considered as part of this process. These options include establishing a service chief or the Joint Forces Command as executive agent for urban operations and making urban operations a major force program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On September 17, 2002, the Deputy Secretary of Defense designated the Commander, Joint Forces Command as the DOD Executive Agent for Joint Urban Operations (JUO). The designation was effective January 1, 2003, and was recommended to the Deputy Secretary of Defense by the CISC. The JUO SSG conducted an analysis of the services and other combatant commands weighing option on the EA designation.

    Recommendation: With respect to intelligence to support urban operations, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, should review the priority accorded urban intelligence collection and analysis and other intelligence efforts and determine what actions can be taken to better meet the intelligence requirements of U.S. forces for these types of operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Joint Staff's (J2) Joint C4ISR Decision Support Center completed a classified Urban Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance study in June 2000. The study identified urban intelligence needs, and recommended solutions to urban intelligence needs.

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