Defense Headquarters:

DOD Needs to Periodically Review and Improve Visibility Of Combatant Commands' Resources

GAO-13-293: Published: May 15, 2013. Publicly Released: May 15, 2013.

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What GAO Found

GAO's analysis of resources devoted to the Department of Defense's (DOD) geographic combatant commands shows that authorized military and civilian positions and mission and headquarters-support costs have grown considerably over the last decade due to the addition of two new commands and increases in authorized positions at theater special operations commands. Data provided by the commands shows that authorized military and civilian positions increased by about 50 percent from fiscal years 2001 through 2012, to about 10,100 authorized positions. In addition, mission and headquarters support-costs at the combatant commands more than doubled from fiscal years 2007 through 2012, to about $1.1 billion. Both authorized military and civilian positions and mission and headquarters-support costs at the service component commands supporting the combatant commands also increased. Data on the number of personnel performing contract services across the combatant commands and service component commands varied or was unavailable, and thus trends could not be identified.

DOD has taken some steps to manage combatant commands' resources, but its processes to review size and oversee the commands have four primary weaknesses that challenge the department's ability to make informed decisions.

  • DOD considers the combatant commands' requests for additional positions, but it does not periodically evaluate the commands' authorized positions to ensure they are still needed to meet the commands' assigned missions.
  • DOD tracks some assigned personnel; however, all personnel supporting the commands are not included in DOD's personnel management system and reviews of assigned personnel vary by command.
  • The service component commands support both service and combatant command missions. However, the Joint Staff and combatant commands lack visibility and oversight over the authorized manpower and personnel at the service component commands to determine whether functions at the combatant commands can be fulfilled by service component command personnel.
  • Each military department submits annual budget documents for operation and maintenance to inform Congress of total authorized positions, full-time equivalents, and mission and headquarters-support funding for all combatant commands that they support. However, these documents do not provide transparency into the resources directed to each combatant command.

GAO's work on strategic human capital management found that high-performing organizations periodically reevaluate their human capital practices and use complete and reliable data to help achieve their missions and ensure resources are properly matched to the needs of today's environment. Until DOD effectively manages the resources of the combatant commands, it may be difficult to ensure that the commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions, or to identify opportunities to carry out those missions efficiently.

Why GAO Did This Study

To perform its missions around the world, DOD operates geographic combatant commands each with thousands of personnel. In response to direction from the congressional committees to review the resources of the combatant commands, GAO (1) identified the trends in the resources devoted to DOD's geographic combatant commands and their service component commands, and (2) assessed the extent that DOD has processes in place to manage and oversee the resources of the combatant commands. For this review, GAO obtained and analyzed data on resources, to include authorized positions and mission and headquarters-support costs, for five regional combatant commands' and their service component commands, excluding U.S. Central Command. GAO also interviewed officials regarding commands' manpower and personnel policies and procedures for reporting resources.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends DOD: require a periodic evaluation of the combatant commands' size and structure; use existing systems to manage and track all assigned personnel; develop a process to gather information on authorized manpower and assigned personnel at the service component commands; and require information in the budget on authorized positions, full-time equivalents, and funding for each combatant command. DOD nonconcurred with GAO's first recommendation, but GAO believes it is still needed to add rigor to the manpower requirements process. DOD concurred with GAO's three other recommendations.

For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-3489 or pendletonj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: Our review found that DOD has a process for evaluating requests for additional authorized positions, but that it does not periodically evaluate the commands' authorized positions to ensure they are needed to meet the commands' assigned missions. The department disagreed with our recommendation, stating that the combatant commands had already been reduced during previous budget reviews. Our report acknowledged and described several of the actions DOD had taken to manage growth at its combatant commands; however, we continue to maintain that these actions do not constitute a comprehensive, periodic review because DOD's actions have not included all authorized positions at the combatant commands. In follow-up meetings, Joint Staff officials explained that the Joint Staff does not review the number of authorized positions, resources, or structure of the unified combatant commands unless directed by higher authority to do so. According to DOD's Plan for Streamlining DOD Management Headquarters, issued in May 2015, the Joint Staff is conducting a review of all joint headquarters authorized positions in order to eliminate staff redundancies and to determine optimal staff size. However, we continue to believe that institutionalizing a periodic evaluation of all authorized positions would help to systematically align manpower with missions and add rigor to the requirements process. We will continue to monitor actions DOD takes in response to this recommendation and will provide updated information as appropriate.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to revise Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1001.01A to require a comprehensive, periodic evaluation of whether the size and structure of the combatant commands meet assigned missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a December 2014 update, DOD indicated that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) had reinstituted an existing budgetary document, the President?s Budget 58 (PB-58), Combatant Command Direct Funding, and directed the military services to use this budget exhibit in its guidance on submission of the fiscal years 2016 through 2020 program and budget. The PB-58 provides the department's justification and visibility for changes in the level of resources required for each combatant command. The military services are required to submit the PB-58 as part of their annual budget documents for operation and maintenance. Details supporting the PB-58 exhibit are explained within the Department of Defense?s Financial Management Regulation Volume 2A Chapter 3. While the PB-58 does not provide detailed information on the number of authorized military or civilian positions and contractor full time equivalents at each combatant command, it does identify the funding required by each combatant command for mission and headquarters support, which, in general, satisfies the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to revise Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1001.01A to require the combatant commands to identify, manage, and track all personnel, including temporary personnel such as civilian overhires and activated reservists, in Electronic Joint Manpower and Personnel System (e-JMAPS) and identify specific guidelines and timeframes for the combatant commands to consistently input and review assigned personnel in e-JMAPS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: Our review found that the Joint Staff and combatant commands lacked visibility and oversight over the authorized manpower and personnel at the service component commands. Specifically, we found that the combatant commands and Joint Staff did not have visibility over personnel at the service component commands or access to the service-specific personnel management systems that the service component commands use, and if they need information to determine whether personnel at the service component commands could support the combatant commands' mission requirements they had to request it from the service component commands. The Director, Joint Staff concurred with the recommendation, but did not provide comments on the corrective action to be taken. In a June 2015 update on this recommendation, Joint Staff officials acknowledged they have no insight into the authorized positions of the service component commands which are managed and tracked by the military services. Joint Staff officials stated that they are developing a process to request this information from the military services on an annual basis, but did not provide a timeframe to complete and implement this process. We will continue to monitor actions DOD takes in response to this recommendation and will provide updated information as appropriate.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in coordination with the combatant commanders and the secretaries of the military departments, to develop and implement a formal process to gather information on authorized manpower and assigned personnel at the service component commands.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a December 2014 update, DOD indicated that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) had reinstituted an existing budgetary document, the President's Budget 58 (PB-58), Combatant Command Direct Funding, and directed the military services to use this budget exhibit in its guidance on submission of the fiscal years 2016 through 2020 program and budget. The PB-58 provides the department's justification and visibility for changes in the level of resources required for each combatant command. The military services are required to submit the PB-58 as part of their annual budget documents for operation and maintenance. Details supporting the PB-58 exhibit are explained within the Department of Defense's Financial Management Regulation Volume 2A Chapter 3. While the PB-58 does not provide detailed information on the number of authorized military or civilian positions and contractor full time equivalents at each combatant command, it does identify the funding required by each combatant command for mission and headquarters support, which, in general, satisfies the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to revise volume 2A, chapter 1 of DOD's Financial Management Regulation 7000.14R to require the military departments, in their annual budget documents for operation and maintenance, to identify the authorized military positions and civilian and contractor full-time equivalents at each combatant command and provide detailed information on funding required by each command for mission and headquarters support, such as civilian pay, contract services, travel, and supplies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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