Military Training:

Potential to Use Lessons Learned to Avoid Past Mistakes is Largely Untapped

NSIAD-95-152: Published: Aug 9, 1995. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 1995.

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GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the military's lessons learned programs in: (1) collecting all significant lessons learned information; (2) analyzing the information to identify recurring weaknesses; (3) disseminating the information to all potential users; and (4) implementing corrective actions and validating results.

GAO found that the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Navy do not: (1) include all significant information from training exercises and operations in their lessons learned programs; and (2) analyze their lessons learned information to identify trends in performance weaknesses. In addition, GAO found that: (1) Marine Corps lessons learned data continue to highlight recurring deficiencies during major combined arms exercises in such areas as maneuver, fire support, engineering, chemical threat, intelligence, communications, and electronic countermeasures; (2) although the dissemination of lessons learned information is adequate, the Air Force does not make its information readily available to all potential users; (3) regardless of the availability and widespread distribution of lessons learned information, most services use this information on a limited basis because they lack the training in how to access the databases; and (4) the Army has made excellent use of trend analysis to develop a corrective action plan to address the highest priority areas.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marine Corps performs analysis and prioritizes lessons through the Mission Area Analysis and the Remedial Action Program. The Navy said that to work properly, RAP analysts must be added to fleet management sites, but because of funding shortfalls, the Navy is exploring alternatives, such as using Naval reservists to do analysis. The Air Force included a requirement for trend analysis and prioritization in its July 1996 revision of AFI 10-204. DOD said that the Joint Staff is not sufficiently resourced to perform trend analysis. Moreover, it said that prioritization of corrective action is and must remain the responsibility of the designated office of primary responsibility.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prioritize these recurring deficiencies so that limited resources can be concentrated on the most pressing problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD said that regional commanders in chief should ensure that solutions to deficiencies are tested in joint exercises, real-world operations, or, in certain cases, through other means.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the regional commanders to ensure that solutions to deficiencies are tested in joint exercises or, if this is not appropriate, validated through alternative means.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force has begun the process to review major command lessons learned programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to take actions to ensure that each of the major commands complies with existing program guidance calling for the establishment of a validation process for their lessons learned programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In accordance with the Navy's instruction on the lessons learned process, the Navy has established remedial action plan working groups to validate lessons learned.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to incorporate a validation process into the Navy's lessons learned program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has selected a more user-friendly computer program to make its lessons learned more accessible to personnel searching the lessons learned database. In addition, the Navy is working to incorporate lessons learned training at junior officer school commands and selected enlisted training tracks. The Air Force has developed a training program for key personnel.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force to provide training to key personnel in the use of lessons learned information and the technology for accessing and reviewing this information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marine Corps performs analysis and prioritizes lessons through the Mission Area Analysis and the Remedial Action Program (RAP). The Navy said that to work properly, RAP analysts must be added to fleet management sites, but because of funding shortfalls, the Navy is exploring alternatives, such as using Naval reservists to do the analysis. The Air Force included a requirement for trend analysis and prioritization in its July 1996 revision of AFI 10-204. DOD said that the Joint Staff is not sufficiently resourced to perform trend analysis. Moreover, it said that prioritization of corrective action is and must remain the responsibility of the designated office of primary responsibility.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to analyze lessons learned information so that trend data can be developed to identify recurring deficiencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marine Corps and the Navy believe that their systems are adequate to capture all lessons. The Air Force has directed annual reviews of lessons learned databases by all major commands and training centers for lessons that have applicability Air Force wide.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force to establish controls to ensure that all significant lessons learned information collected from combat training centers, fleet exercises, and other major training exercises are recorded in the services' lessons learned databases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has taken steps to establish lessons learned as a priority program to ensure that lessons learned are submitted and originated as required.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to modify the Navy's lessons learned program to retain all significant lessons learned from operations and exercises.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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