Full Training Benefits from Army's Combat Training Centers Are Not Being Realized
T-NSIAD-99-92: Published: Feb 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1999.
GAO discussed the effectiveness of training at the Army's three maneuver combat training centers--the National Training Center (NTC) Fort Irwin, California; the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), Fort Polk, Louisiana; and the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC), Hohenfels, Germany.
GAO noted that: (1) the centers offer an extraordinary opportunity for units and their leaders to train at a level normally unavailable to them at their home stations; (2) they offer large maneuver areas and opportunities to train on mission-essential tasks and wartime missions against an opposing force under realistic and demanding conditions; (3) they provide sophisticated systems that provide real-time assessments of the unit's performance; (4) although 80 percent of the commanders who responded to GAO's survey said that the exercises were very useful in improving their units' proficiency, GAO concluded that the centers are not being used to their full potential; (5) units arrive at the centers ill-prepared for the type of training to be provided and, as a result, cannot take full advantage of the training opportunity they are given; (6) to obtain the maximum benefit from these exercises, units should be proficient at battalion-level tasks when they arrive; (7) however, many units have trained only to the company level and their leaders struggle with the more complicated planning and synchronization required for the battalion- and brigade-level exercises conducted at the centers; (8) because training units lack proficiency at the battalion level, the content of the training is frequently modified to provide less challenging scenarios than would normally be expected; (9) while such adjustments permit the unit to engage in meaningful training for longer periods of time than would otherwise be possible under more demanding conditions, they undermine realism and thereby limit the value of the training; (10) commanders cannot take full advantage of the lessons learned from their participation at the centers because, after returning to their home stations, the combination of personnel turnover, lack of training opportunities, and ineffective take-home materials prevent commanders from attending to the deficiencies identified; (11) the result is that systematic weaknesses demonstrated by units are not being addressed; (12) despite spending millions of dollars to collect data from each of the exercises, the Army still has not developed a plan for fully integrating training results with its training and doctrine development activities, nor has it periodically assessed whether the centers are achieving their objectives; and (13) the Army is not taking full advantage of the lessons it learns from the centers and does not know the extent to which the exercises are improving the proficiency of its units and leaders.