Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Defense Headquarters (2012-34)
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Defense: Defense Headquarters (2012-34)

The Department of Defense could potentially save billions of dollars by reviewing and identifying further opportunities for consolidating or reducing the size of headquarters organizations.

Action:

To facilitate reliable reporting on headquarters staffing and improve information available for decision making, the Department of Defense (DOD) should revise its Instruction on tracking of headquarters resources to include all major DOD headquarters activity organizations.

This action was revised in GAO's March 2012 report, Defense Headquarters: Further Efforts to Examine Resource Needs and Improve Data Could Provide Additional Opportunities for Cost Savings (GAO-12-345). Specifically, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Director of Administration and Management, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to revise DOD Instruction 5100.73, Major DOD Headquarters Activities, to include all major DOD headquarters activity organizations and establish a time frame for the revision to improve the tracking and reporting of headquarters resources.

Progress:

DOD has begun updating DOD Instruction 5100.73, Major DOD Headquarters Activities, to include all major DOD headquarters activity organizations but has not issued the revised Instruction or established a time frame for doing so, as GAO recommended in March 2012. Specifically, in June 2012, DOD completed a technical update of DOD Instruction 5100.73, but this update did not include substantive revisions to the major DOD headquarters activity organizations identified in the Instruction. In August 2015, DOD stated that it had established a comprehensive definition of major DOD headquarters activities. According to a DOD official, this definition more accurately reflects what should be considered a major DOD headquarters activity organization.

However, as of January 2019, DOD had not updated Instruction 5100.73 with the organizations, or portions of organizations, that should be included in its count of headquarters activities in accordance with this definition. It had not established a time frame for the revision either. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 includes a requirement that the department revise applicable guidance on DOD major headquarters activities as needed by late March 2016. A DOD official stated that an update to the instruction has been delayed by a need to complete a more comprehensive update of the instruction beyond an updated list of organizations, reduced staff capacity to dedicate toward updating the instruction in light of headquarters reductions, and a need to focus on more pressing priorities, such as establishing a governance process for controlling growth in headquarters. Until DOD issues its revised instruction stating which organizations and portions of organizations should be considered as headquarters and establishes time frames for the revisions, DOD organizations will not have the information necessary to reliably report their entire headquarters staff.

Action:

To facilitate reliable reporting on headquarters staffing and improve information available for decision making, the Department of Defense (DOD) should specify how contractors performing headquarters functions will be identified and included in headquarters reporting.

This action was revised in GAO's March 2012 report, Defense Headquarters: Further Efforts to Examine Resource Needs and Improve Data Could Provide Additional Opportunities for Cost Savings (GAO-12-345). Specifically, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Director of Administration and Management, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to revise DOD Instruction 5100.73, Major DOD Headquarters Activities, to specify how contractors performing major DOD headquarters activity functions will be identified and included in headquarters reporting and establish a time frame for the revision to improve tracking and reporting headquarters resources.

Progress:

As of January 2019, DOD had made some progress toward better accounting for contractors but had not revised DOD Instruction 5100.73 to identify an approach to include contractors as part of its major DOD headquarters reporting or established a time frame in which to do so, as GAO recommended in March 2012. DOD stated that it submitted a plan to the congressional defense committees in November 2011 for its Inventory of Contracts for Services that established both near-term and long-term actions needed to improve overall visibility and accountability of all contracted services, including those performed in support of major DOD headquarters activities. This plan and subsequent guidance issued in December 2011 describe the steps being taken to account for the level of effort of contracted support, based on the activity requiring the service. DOD noted that aligning contract support with the requiring activity, as opposed to the contracting activity, will ensure that the department can reflect contractor full-time equivalents based on direct labor hours collected from contractors supporting major DOD headquarters activities.

Since that time, DOD has taken steps to consolidate systems across the military departments and define roles and responsibilities of the office responsible for managing the Inventory reporting process. However, issues with collecting and using common data remain, and DOD has not identified an approach to include contractors as part of its DOD headquarters reporting. To fully implement this action, DOD should improve its ability to identify how many headquarters personnel it has, to include contractors.

Action:

To facilitate reliable reporting on headquarters staffing and improve information available for decision making, the Department of Defense (DOD) should clarify how components are to compile the major DOD headquarters activities information needed to respond to the reporting requirements in section 1109 of the National Defense Authorization Act.

This action was revised in GAO’s March 2012 report, Defense Headquarters: Further Efforts to Examine Resource Needs and Improve Data Could Provide Additional Opportunities for Cost Savings (GAO-12-345). Specifically, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Director of Administration and Management, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to revise DOD Instruction 5100.73, Major DOD Headquarters Activities, to clarify how components are to compile the major DOD headquarters activities information needed to respond to the reporting requirements in section 1109 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

Progress:

DOD has clarified reporting requirements for the compilation of major DOD headquarters activities information in its Defense Manpower Requirements Report, as we recommended in March 2012. In April 2012, DOD released its fiscal year 2012 Defense Manpower Requirements Report, which addressed new reporting requirements for major DOD headquarters activities identified in Section 1109 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 and codified in section 115a of Title 10 of the United States Code, among other things. Specifically, DOD reported aggregate military and civilian major DOD headquarters activity personnel by component and included details on increases to military and civilian personnel due to the in-sourcing of contract workyears as well as adjustments made to limitations on personnel performing major DOD headquarters activity functions. As a result, DOD and Congress should have greater ability to monitor the military, civilian, and contractor personnel performing major DOD headquarters activities when determining whether headquarters organizations are appropriately sized.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense

Action:

To facilitate reliable reporting on headquarters staffing and improve information available for decision making, the Department of Defense (DOD) should establish time frames for implementing actions 1 through 3 to improve tracking and reporting headquarters resources.

This action was revised in GAO’s March 2012 report, Defense Headquarters: Further Efforts to Examine Resource Needs and Improve Data Could Provide Additional Opportunities for Cost Savings (GAO-12-345).  Specifically, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Director of Administration and Management, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to revise DOD Instruction 5100.73,Major DOD Headquarters Activities,to establish time frames for implementing actions 1 through 3 to improve tracking and reporting headquarters resources.

Progress:

GAO is assessing this action as part of actions 1 and 2 of this area.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense

Action:

To further the Department of Defense'’s (DOD) ability to find efficiencies in headquarters and other overhead, DOD should continue to examine opportunities to consolidate or eliminate defense headquarters organizations that are geographically close or have similar missions, as well as seek further opportunities to centralize administrative and command support services, functions, or programs.

This action was revised in GAO's March 2012 report, Defense Headquarters: Further Efforts to Examine Resource Needs and Improve Data Could Provide Additional Opportunities for Cost Savings (GAO-12-345). Specifically, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the secretaries of the military departments and the heads of the DOD components to continue to examine opportunities to consolidate or eliminate military commands that are geographically close or have similar missions, and to seek further opportunities to centralize administrative and command support services, functions, or programs.

Progress:

DOD developed a plan to streamline its management headquarters and has begun implementing the plan, consistent with GAO's March 2012 recommendation. In December 2013, based in part on GAO's body of work on DOD headquarters, Congress required DOD to develop the plan. Specifically, in section 904 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, Congress directed DOD to develop a plan for streamlining by changing or reducing the size of staffs, eliminating tiers of management, cutting functions that provide little or no added value, and consolidating overlapping and duplicative programs and offices. Congress directed DOD to report on this plan no later than 180 days after enactment. The plan was to include

  • a description of the planned changes or reductions in staffing and services provided by military personnel, civilian personnel, and contractor personnel;
  • a description of the planned changes or reductions in management, functions, and programs and offices;
  • the estimated cumulative savings to be achieved over a 10-fiscal-year period beginning with fiscal year 2015; and
  • estimated savings to be achieved for each of fiscal years 2015 through 2024.

DOD was also directed to submit a status report on the implementation of its plan along with the President's budget materials for fiscal years 2016 through 2024.

In May 2015, DOD issued its Plan for Streamlining DOD Management Headquarters, reflecting its initial and first status report to Congress. In July 2017 we reported that DOD had taken some steps to implement the plan, such as directing that certain headquarters organizations review service-related contracts and propose reductions that would yield a 10 percent cut. The actions taken by Congress and DOD, partly in response to GAO's work, should help DOD to more efficiently manage headquarters resources and find cost savings as it seeks to resource its strategic priorities.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense

Action:

The Secretary of Defense should conduct a comprehensive, periodic evaluation of whether the combatant commands are sized and structured to efficiently meet assigned missions. 

This action was identified in GAO’s May 2013 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Periodically Review and Improve Visibility Of Combatant Commands' Resources, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2014 under the “Combatant Command Headquarters Costs” area. 

 

Progress:

No executive action taken. The Department of Defense (DOD) has not instituted a comprehensive, periodic evaluation of whether the combatant commands are sized and structured to efficiently meet their assigned missions, as GAO recommended in May 2013. The department disagreed with GAO’s recommended action, stating that the combatant commands had already been reduced during previous budget and efficiency reviews. GAO’s May 2013 report acknowledged and described several actions taken by DOD to manage the growth in personnel and costs at the combatant commands, including establishing personnel baselines and identifying personnel reductions. However, these actions do not constitute a comprehensive, periodic review of the combatant commands’ total workforce, in part because DOD’s actions to manage growth in personnel and costs have not included all authorized positions at the combatant commands. 

GAO maintains that institutionalizing a periodic evaluation of all authorized positions would help to systematically align manpower with missions and add rigor to the requirements process. The Department has previously stated it does not plan to take action to implement this recommendation. As of January 2019, DOD had not provided additional information to indicate progress on this recommendation. Without a comprehensive, periodic evaluation of the commands’ authorized positions, DOD risks not being able to ensure that the combatant commands are properly sized and structured to meet their assigned missions or that the commands can identify opportunities for managing personnel resources more efficiently.

Action:

The Secretary of Defense should develop a process to gather information on authorized positions and assigned personnel at the service component commands.

This action was identified in GAO’s May 2013 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Periodically Review and Improve Visibility Of Combatant Commands' Resources, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2014 under the “Combatant Command Headquarters Costs” area.

Progress:

No executive action taken. The Department of Defense (DOD) has not developed a process to gather information on authorized positions and assigned personnel at the service component commands, as GAO recommended in May 2013. In its comments on GAO’s report, DOD concurred with the recommendation to develop a formal process to gather information on authorized and assigned personnel at the service component commands, but did not provide comments on the corrective action to be taken. In June 2015, Joint Staff officials told GAO they continue to have no insight into the authorized positions of the service component commands, which are managed and tracked by the military services. The Joint Staff and combatant commands continue to request information from the service component commands when needed to track authorized positions and actual personnel, the same process we reported on in 2013.

As of January 2019, DOD had not provided additional information to indicate progress on this recommendation. Without a formal process to gather information on the authorized positions and assigned personnel at the service component commands, the combatant commands may not have the visibility that is necessary to appropriately size themselves to meet their assigned missions, and they are at risk for unnecessarily duplicating functions between the combatant commands and their service component commands.

Action:

The Secretary of Defense should conduct a more comprehensive and well-documented analysis of options for the permanent placement of the headquarters for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), including documentation explaining how operational benefits are weighed against the costs.

This action was identified in GAO’s September 2013 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Reassess Options for Permanent Location of U.S. Africa Command, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2014 under the “Combatant Command Headquarters Costs” area.

Progress:

No executive action taken. The Department of Defense (DOD) has not conducted a more comprehensive and well-documented analysis of options for the permanent placement of the headquarters for AFRICOM (currently in Stuttgart, Germany), including documentation explaining how operational benefits are weighed against the costs, as GAO recommended in September 2013. DOD noted in its comments on GAO's September 2013 report that to meet the requirements of the Budget Control Act of 2011 it would consider a wide range of options, and if any of these options required additional analysis of the location of AFRICOM headquarters, DOD would conduct a more comprehensive and well-documented analysis. However, in August 2017, DOD officials stated that the department had not conducted any additional analysis on the permanent placement of AFRICOM headquarters and no additional analysis was being planned. Furthermore, the officials stated that AFRICOM would remain in Stuttgart, Germany for the foreseeable future.

As of January 2019, DOD had not provided additional information to indicate progress on this recommendation. GAO maintains that such an analysis is needed and until the costs and benefits of maintaining AFRICOM headquarters in Germany are specified and weighed against the costs and economic benefits of moving the command, the department may be missing an opportunity to accomplish its missions successfully at a significantly lower cost.

Action:

To improve the management of the Department of Defense's (DOD) headquarters-reduction efforts and to allow the department to respond to congressional reporting requirements, the Secretary of Defense should set a clearly defined and consistently applied starting point as a baseline for the reductions.

This action was identified in GAO’s June 2014 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Reevaluate Its Approach for Managing Resources Devoted to the Functional Combatant Commands, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2015 under the “DOD Headquarters Reductions and Workforce Requirements” area.

Progress:

As of May 2018, DOD had established a clearly defined and consistently applied baseline for management headquarters activities, as GAO recommended in June 2014. To support the fiscal year 2018 budget request, DOD added 53 program element codes in the Future Years Defense Program that align with its definition of headquarters-related spending and established a clearly defined and consistently applied baseline for management headquarters activities. In May 2018, DOD reported that this re-baselining effort establishes both an authoritative management headquarters manpower and operating cost baseline for the purposes of reporting and tracking. DOD also reported that measuring the workforce baseline was an essential foundational step in determining the overall headquarters costs. The action taken by DOD to set a baseline should help it more reliably track and report any future reductions in management headquarters.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense

Action:

To improve the management of the Department of Defense's (DOD) headquarters-reduction efforts and to allow the department to respond to congressional reporting requirements, the Secretary of Defense should track reductions against the baselines in order to provide reliable accounting of savings and reporting to Congress.

This action was identified in GAO’s June 2014 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Reevaluate Its Approach for Managing Resources Devoted to the Functional Combatant Commands, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2015 under the “DOD Headquarters Reductions and Workforce Requirements” area.

Progress:

As of May 2018, DOD had begun to track its headquarters reductions efforts, as GAO recommended in June 2014. To support DOD’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, it added 53 program element codes in the Future Years Defense Program that align with its definition of headquarters-related spending and established a clearly defined and consistently applied baseline for management headquarters activities. In addition, in May 2018, DOD reported that this re-baselining effort establishes both an authoritative management headquarters manpower and operating cost baseline for the purposes of reporting and tracking.

DOD’s May 2018 report to Congress also indicates that the information provided with DOD’s fiscal year 2018 budget will represent an official consistent baseline going forward upon which the department can reliably track and report future reductions in management headquarters. In its May 2018 report, DOD used this baseline data to track its progress on reductions as presented in the 2019 budget request. As the department seeks additional reforms and reductions in its management headquarters, it is important that it continues to track any progress made against this baseline.  By establishing a baseline and tracking reductions to headquarters in the Future Years Defense Program, DOD is better positioned to track and report future headquarters reductions.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense

Action:

To ensure that the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Joint Staff, and the military secretariats and staff are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and use the most cost-effective mix of personnel, and to better position the Department of Defense (DOD) to identify opportunities for more efficient use of resources, the Secretary of Defense should conduct a systematic determination of workforce requirements for these organizations, which should include an analysis of mission, functions, and tasks, and the minimum personnel needed to accomplish those missions, functions, and tasks.

This action was identified in GAO’s January 2015 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Reassess Personnel Requirements for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Military Service Secretariats, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2015 under the “DOD Headquarters Reductions and Workforce Requirements” area.

Progress:

DOD was considering developing a manpower requirements validation process, but it has not conducted a systematic determination of workforce requirements. DOD partially concurred with GAO’s January 2015 recommendation to conduct a systematic determination of workforce requirements, and in comments to the report, DOD noted that it would continue to use the processes and prioritization that are part of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution process, and would also investigate other methods for aligning personnel to missions and priorities. However, DOD did not specify whether any of these actions would include a workforce analysis.

In June 2017, the Deputy Secretary of Defense assigned the Deputy Chief Management Officer as the single oversight authority for the governance of manpower resources across the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Agencies, and DOD Field Activities. The Deputy Chief Management Officer was also tasked with developing a process, within 6 months, to add rigor and strengthen oversight of manpower resources in a manner that can be fully integrated into the programming, planning, budgeting, and execution processes of the department. On July 26, 2017 the Deputy Chief Management Officer further delegated the implementation steps for this process to the Director, Washington Headquarters Service, in order to document and codify the standardized and disciplined business practices. However, as of January 2019, DOD had not provided documentation enabling GAO to determine that a systematic determination of workforce requirements within these organizations had taken place. Without a systematic determination of personnel requirements, DOD headquarters organizations may not be well positioned to identify opportunities for efficiencies and to reduce the potential for headquarters-related growth.

Action:

To ensure that the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Joint Staff, and the military secretariats and staff are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and use the most cost-effective mix of personnel, and to better position the Department of Defense (DOD) to identify opportunities for more efficient use of resources, the Secretary of Defense should establish and implement procedures to conduct periodic reassessments of workforce requirements.

This action was identified in GAO’s January 2015 report, Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Reassess Personnel Requirements for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Military Service Secretariats, and was added to the Action Tracker in April 2015 under the “DOD Headquarters Reductions and Workforce Requirements” area.

Progress:

No executive action taken. While DOD stated that it supports the intent of GAO’s January 2015 recommendation to conduct periodic reassessments of workforce requirements, as of August 2018, DOD had not taken any steps to address the recommendation despite a congressional requirement to do so. In comments to GAO’s January 2015 report, DOD noted that such periodic reassessments require additional resources and personnel, which would increase the number of personnel performing major DOD headquarters activities. DOD stated that it intended to examine the establishment of requirements determination processes across the department, to include the contractor workforce, but that such an examination would require a phased approach across a longer time frame.

Based in part on GAO’s work on management headquarters, including its January 2015 report, Congress directed DOD to develop a plan for implementing a periodic review and analysis of DOD's personnel requirements for management headquarters, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the military service secretariats and staff, among others, in section 905 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. The review is to include a description of current headquarters size, structure, and critical capabilities; an assessment of current systems to track how headquarters personnel are managed; and a proposed time line and resources required to implement a permanent periodic reassessment. In May 2018, DOD issued a report to Congress detailing its efforts to address streamlining management headquarters at DOD, including a reference to the section 905 provision. However, the report did not provide specifics on DOD's plan to address the section 905 requirement and as of January 2019, DOD had not provided additional information to indicate progress on this recommendation. Without periodic reassessments, it will likely be difficult for headquarters organizations to be well positioned to effectively identify opportunities for efficiencies and limit personnel growth.

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    • John Pendleton
    • Director, Defense Capabilities and Management
    • pendletonj@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-3489