General and Flag Officers:

Number Required is Unclear Based on DOD's Draft Report

NSIAD-97-160: Published: Jun 16, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1997.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) progress in determining its general and flag officer requirements, focusing on: (1) DOD's draft recommendations; (2) the estimated cost to implement DOD's draft recommendations; (3) the criteria the services used in doing their studies; (4) troop strength compared to general and flag officer requirements; and (5) whether certain general or flag officer positions may be candidates for conversion to civilian status. GAO noted that this is an interim report, since DOD has delayed completion of its mandated report.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD's draft does not clearly identify general and flag officer requirements and does not explain the basis for its recommendations to increase the number of general and flag officers by 54 active and 32 reserve positions; (2) the draft recommends 1,018 active duty general and flag officers, the service studies recommended 1,096, and the service secretaries recommended only 995; (3) neither the actual number of general and flag officers needed nor the criteria used to arrive at the number has been explained by DOD, the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps; (4) in trying to reconcile the different numbers, GAO found that some of the difference results from the service chiefs' military judgment, some from perceived political realities not to ask for too many general and flag officers, and some from the conflicting draft recommendations from the services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense; (5) DOD, the services, and the joint community did not effectively integrate their studies, which led to different assumptions about how many general and flag officers will be provided by the services for joint duty; (6) some reserve component study results and recommendations were also adjusted; (7) GAO estimates the cost of implementing DOD's draft recommendations would be at least $1.2 million annually, assuming the services reduce the number of colonels and Navy captains by the same amount as the increase in general and flag officers; (8) the criteria and methodology used in the services' studies are based on widely used job evaluation techniques that have highly subjective features; (9) the different methodologies together created at least 27 different definitions of a general or flag officer and, therefore, some results are not comparable; (10) the data collected did not attempt to demonstrate the impact of the mandated reduction in general and flag officers between fiscal years 1991 and 1996; (11) force structure changes and general and flag officer requirements have not always been linked; (12) since the early 1980s, in some years, troop strength dropped and in other years it increased while general and flag officer authorizations remained constant; (13) in 1993, 3 years after Congress mandated the latest cut in general and flag officer positions, DOD completed its Bottom Up Review strategy that further changed the force structure; (14) the requirements for general and flag officers may further change based on 1997 and subsequent Quadrennial Defense Reviews; and (15) DOD may be able to fill some new general and flag officer positions if it converts nonmilitary essential positions to civilian status and transfers the incumbent.

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

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: The Congress may wish to require DOD to revalidate its general and flag officer requirements as part of the periodic Quadrennial Defense Reviews.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD is assessing the impact of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) upon its needs for general and flag officers.

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should modify the draft report to include: (1) an explanation of the criteria used by the service secretaries to modify the results of the services' studies and a statement about whether the numbers represent the actual requirements for general and flag officers; (2) an adjustment to the consolidated draft recommendations to eliminate double-counting; (3) an evaluation of the potential to convert nonmilitary essential general and flag officer positions to civilian status; and (4) a mechanism to reduce the number of colonel's/Navy captain's positions by the number of general and flag officers added.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD is awaiting analysis of the impact of the QDR on the need for generals and flag officers before finalizing its report.

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