Reserve Forces:

DOD Policies Do Not Ensure That Personnel Meet Medical and Physical Fitness Standards

NSIAD-94-36: Published: Mar 23, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) and military services' medical and physical fitness policies for reserve forces.

GAO found that: (1) DOD has not adequately overseen the services' implementation of its medical and physical fitness programs for reservists; (2) DOD requires reserve forces to be capable of deploying quickly to unexpected military contingencies anywhere in the world; (3) although the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have adopted more stringent standards and separate their reservists with permanent medical conditions, DOD has allowed the Army to retain more than 22,000 reservists with serious medical conditions that may prevent them from deployment to a contingency; (4) the retention of medically nondeployable reservists is inconsistent with the current military strategy and can adversely affect wartime operations; (5) during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, about 8,000 reserve personnel were called to active duty and later found to be medically nondeployable; (6) the services' physical fitness testing programs assess only general fitness levels instead of reservists' preparedness for specific military missions; and (7) DOD may not be able to identify and prevent physical fitness problems because the services do not report fitness information as required and do not have controls to prevent the alteration of physical fitness test scores.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD said that the report does not provide sufficient evidence of systemic problems to warrant identifying the DOD Medical and Fitness standards program as containing material weaknesses.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over physical fitness testing and reporting, the Secretary of Defense should identify the DOD physical fitness program as containing material control weaknesses in the next annual assurance statement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new DOD instruction 1308.3 includes a requirement that physical fitness testing be conducted in a manner that prevents scores from being inappropriately changed and ensures compliance with established controls and procedures.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over physical fitness testing and reporting, the Secretary of Defense should implement controls to prevent fitness test scores from being inappropriately changed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new DOD Instruction 1308.3 contains a requirement for the military services to separate personnel who repeatedly fail either mission-specific or general physical fitness tests.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over physical fitness testing and reporting, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy to separate personnel who repeatedly fail either mission-specific or general physical fitness tests.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new DOD Directive 1308.1 and 1308.3 Instruction requires all services to fully comply with age-adjusted physical fitness testing of all military personnel.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over physical fitness testing and reporting, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to discontinue exempting older Marine Corps and Navy reservists from fitness testing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD does not plan to implement the recommendation. Rather, DOD is revising the DOD directive applicable to the physical fitness and weight control programs. The revision will require each service to give DOD an annual assessment of its health and fitness programs and an evaluation of the physical fitness of its members.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over physical fitness testing and reporting, the Secretary of Defense should revise DOD physical fitness policy to require the services to include in their annual assessments of physical fitness programs data on: (1) the number of active and reserve component personnel taking physical fitness tests; (2) the number of personnel passing and failing the tests and the number failing two or more consecutive tests; (3) personnel actions taken against those who fail tests; and (4) the number of personnel excused from testing and the reasons why they were excused.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 1995, DOD issued an instruction that requires the services to use mission-specific standards fitness tests.

    Recommendation: For key decisionmakers to accurately assess whether reserve component personnel are in proper physical condition to perform their military duties, the Secretary of Defense should require the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy to develop and implement mission-specific physical fitness tests.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new DOD standards adopted in November 1996 apply to the Total Force. The Army has directed commanders to identify soldiers for placement in the nondeployable account who are permanently nondeployable in accordance with Army regulations.

    Recommendation: To ensure that reserve component personnel are medically fit for future military operations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to make a corresponding change in the Army's medical retention policy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has revised Directive 1332.18 to articulate its medical retention policy. Under the directive, each case is to be considered by relating the nature and degree of the service member's disability to the requirements and duties that the member may be expected to perform. This action is consistent with the House of Representatives' language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995. The directive was published in November 1996.

    Recommendation: To ensure that reserve component personnel are medically fit for future military operations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to revise DOD medical retention policy to require that reservists be medically able for worldwide deployment to be retained in the service.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD said that the Office of Inspector General has followed up on and assessed compliance with all planned corrective actions.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over physical fitness testing and reporting, the Secretary of Defense should direct the DOD Inspector General to confirm that adequate management controls have been established to correct the fitness-related problems identified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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