U.S. Atlantic Command:

Challenging Role in the Evolution of Joint Military Capabilities

NSIAD-99-39: Published: Feb 17, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to improve joint operations, focusing on: (1) the U.S. Atlantic Command's (USACOM) actions to establish itself as the joint force trainer, provider, and integrator of most continental U.S.-based forces; (2) views on the value of the Command's contributions to joint military capabilities; and (3) recent expansion of the Command's responsibilities and its possible effects on the command.

GAO noted that: (1) USACOM has advanced joint training by developing a state-of-the-art joint task force commander training program and simulation training center; (2) the Command has also progressed in developing other elements of joint training, though not at the same level of maturity or intensity; (3) however, USACOM has had to make substantive changes in its approach to providing and integrating joint forces; (4) its initial approach was to develop ready force packages tailored to meet the geographic commands' spectrum of missions; (5) this was rebuffed by the military services and the geographic commands, which did not want or value USACOM's proactive role and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993-97), who did not see the utility of such force packages; (6) by late 1995, USACOM reverted to implementing a force-providing process that provides the Command with a much more limited role and ability to affect decisions and change; (7) the Command's force integrator role was separated from force providing and also redirected; (8) the establishment of performance goals and measures would help USACOM assess and report on the results of its efforts to improve joint military capabilities; (9) Congress anticipated that the Government Performance and Results Act principles would be institutionalized at all organizational levels in federal agencies; (10) the Command's recently instituted strategic planning system does not include performance measures that can be used to evaluate its impact on the military capabilities of U.S. forces; (11) the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and USACOM believed the Command was providing an important focus to the advancement of joint operations; (12) the views of the geographic commands were generally more reserved, with some benefitting more than others from USACOM's efforts; (13) the Command's new authorities are likely to increase its role and capabilities to provide training and joint war fighting support and enhance its ability to influence decisions within the department; and (14) although USACOM's roles are expanding and the number of functions and DOD organizational elements the Command has relationships with is significant, its roles and responsibilities are still largely not spelled out in key DOD policy and guidance, including joint doctrine, guidance, and other publications.

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: It is important that USACOM be able to evaluate its performance and impact in maximizing joint military capabilities. Such assessments, while very difficult to make, could help the Command better determine what it needs to do to enhance its performance. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander in Chief of USACOM to adopt performance goals and measures that will enable the Command to assess its performance in accomplishing its mission of maximizing joint military capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD's most recent DAMIS report dated May 2006, the Command has made progress in refining its strategic planning system and identifying goals and objectives for each command directorate. These goals and objectives are reportedly in the form of measures of merit and are reported on by an automated tool, the Strategic Planning Information Network (SPIN). This network is to serve as a management tool to support strategic planning and assessment of the command?s progress towards achieving the command mission and vision. The DAMIS report also states the Command has established several councils/groups to provide a forum for vetting metrics of the command. DOD considered this recommendation closed on May 15, 2000. Numerous attempts to substantiate and/or document these actions have been made through the Joint Forces Command Inspector General's office for a period of 5 years. Our latest request for documentation was submitted in February 2006. To date, none of these efforts have produced any results. Based on this prolonged lack of responsiveness to our requests and the Command's unwillingness to meet or provide documentation, we conclude that we can not substantiate the actions cited in the DAMIS report and will close this recommendation as not implemented.

    Recommendation: As USACOM attempts to advance the evolution of joint military capabilities and its role continues to expand, it is important that the Command's roles and responsibilities be clearly defined, understood, and supported throughout DOD. Only USACOM's roles and responsibilities in joint training have been so defined in DOD policy and guidance documents. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should fully incorporate USACOM's functional roles, authorities, and responsibilities in appropriate DOD directives and publications, including joint doctrine and guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) role as the chief advocate for jointness has been spelled out in the 1999 Unified Command Plan. Key joint doctrine and guidance has also incorporated detailed explanations of USJFCOM's role and responsibilities. For example, Joint Publication 0-2 provides a high level description of the Command's responsibilities both as a geographic and functional Combatant. It specifically identifies the Command as the Joint Force provider, integrator and trainer. Additionally, Joint Publication 1-01 spells out USJFCOM's role in identifying, developing, and publishing Joint Doctrine. Other joint guidance, such as the Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff Instruction 3500.01B, and 3500.02C, provides detailed guidance on the Command's role and responsibilities as a joint force trainer, and its role as a joint force integrator.

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