Greater Coordination Required in Defense Planning for Intratheater Airlift Needs

PLRD-81-42: Published: Jul 9, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1981.

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Intratheater airlift provides an essential capability to move personnel and materiel quickly within combat theaters and between points which are separated by impassable terrain. Airlift may be categorized as intertheater, common use intratheater, and specialized intratheater. Intertheater airlift involves long-range lift and is managed by the Air Force Military Airlift Command. Intratheater airlift involves shorter distances, and its responsibilities are divided among Air Force and other military service commands. GAO evaluated Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to match intratheater airlift need and capability, dealing primarily with the common use intratheater airlift.

GAO found that DOD planners still do not have adequate information to plan for wartime needs. Where planners have identified shortfalls, DOD efforts to address the problems have been inadequate. Individual services and unified theater commands determine and set priorities for movement requirements, and the Military Airlift Command determines how these requirements can be met. The Joint Chiefs of Staff sets overall priorities and provides direction to the Military Airlift Command. GAO found that planning for common use intratheater air movement and aircraft requirements varies from extensive to nearly nonexistent. In Europe, the theater command has studied its needs in detail. However, in the Pacific, only fragmentary data were available. The Military Airlift Command has little overall data on intratheater airlift movement requirements. At DOD headquarters levels, priority on strategic needs results in little emphasis on intratheater planning. Variations in planning, coupled with a lack of awareness by commands regarding what other organizations are doing, indicate a need to better coordinate common use intratheater airlift planning. DOD decisions on major airlift proposals have been based on partial data which leave unanswered basic questions regarding movement and aircraft requirements and relative priority of tactical versus strategic needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Military Airlift Command should improve oversight and coordination of common use intratheater airlift planning, including greater participation by the Military Airlift Command in component and theater command efforts. He should: (1) improve methods to determine movement and aircraft requirements at the theater command levels and relate such requirements to capability; (2) ensure consistent use of the most appropriate intratheater airlift planning methods within the Military Airlift Command, theater commands, and other services; and (3) ensure that mobilization plans more adequately reflect intratheater movement requirements and capability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Joint Chiefs of Staff

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Military Airlift Command should improve oversight and coordination of common use intratheater airlift planning, including greater participation by the Military Airlift Command in component and theater command efforts. He should: (1) improve methods to determine movement and aircraft requirements at the theater command levels and relate such requirements to capability; (2) ensure consistent use of the most appropriate intratheater airlift planning methods within the Military Airlift Command, theater commands, and other services; and (3) ensure that mobilization plans more adequately reflect intratheater movement requirements and capability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force: Military Airlift Command

 

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