Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Warfighter Urgent Needs (2011-03)
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Defense: Warfighter Urgent Needs (2011-03)

Opportunities exist for consolidation and increased efficiencies to maximize response to warfighter urgent needs.


The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to perform its own analysis of options aimed at potential consolidations and increased efficiencies in streamlining its urgent needs entities and processes. This analysis should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the options identified to determine the optimal course of action.


DOD has performed its own analysis aimed at potential consolidations and increased efficiencies in streamlining multiple entities and processes to address urgent needs of warfighters, such as how to quickly obtain counter-improvised explosive devices or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technology.  DOD has also determined an optimal course of action and has begun to reorganize the departments’ urgent needs entities and implement other actions, such as establishing guidance, as GAO recommended in March 2011. 

Specifically, DOD’s analysis since 2011 included two studies examining potential overlap or duplication among entities working on rapid acquisitions for warfighters, including weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the identified options.1  The first study, as noted in a May 2013 report to Congress, wasconducted by the Deputy Chief Management Office to assess numerous rapid acquisition organizations for potential overlap or duplication.2 The study determined that the overlap in functions and attributes identified in the various organizations provided legitimate depth that enhanced the department’s ability to respond to warfighter urgent needs. DOD concluded that the multiple entities could help develop multiple solutions to complex problems, so officials decided against any near-term consolidation of entities.  In the second study, also cited in DOD’s May 2013 report, the Warfighter Senior Integration Group—at the direction of the Deputy Secretary of Defense—examined whether several urgent needs entities should be retained to ensure that DOD is prepared for future contingencies. DOD noted in this study that the Secretary of Defense had disestablished the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Task Force and transferred its functions to the Services on October 1, 2012. In response to this study, in September 2013, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed further reorganization of the department’s entities addressing warfighter urgent needs. For example, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), while still supporting current operations and maintaining essential capabilities, plans to reduce staff and funding in recognition of the end of the war in Iraq and the transition in Afghanistan and provide a plan to transition the essential capabilities of JIEDDO to an integrated joint organization. The Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force is to be aligned as a permanent organization within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence).

Further, DOD has taken other actions to streamline its urgent needs entities and processes. For example, in January 2012, DOD revised guidance to provide one common definition of the term “urgent operational need.”3 Additionally, in August 2012, DOD issued guidance that formally established the roles and responsibilities of the Warfighter Senior Integration Group as a standing DOD-wide forum that would serve as the department’s authority to oversee, prioritize, and direct actions to facilitate the rapid response and resolution of urgent needs.4 According to DOD’s May 2013 report, with the publication of the guidance, the Deputy Secretary of Defense became the designated senior official responsible for leading DOD actions on urgent operational needs and rapid acquisition. This guidance also established policy and assigned responsibilities across the department for the rapid fulfillment of urgent needs. Finally, in November 2013, DOD issued an interim revision to DOD Instruction 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, in part to provide policy and procedures for the rapid acquisition of urgent needs. These steps taken by DOD toward streamlining its entities and processes could lead to increased efficiency and effectiveness in addressing warfighters’ urgent operational needs.


[1] In our March 2011 report, we referred to the establishment of new organizations intended to be more responsive to urgent warfighter needs as “urgent needs entities,” which included organizations, offices, programs, agencies, and task forces.  In subsequent DOD reports, the department has used the term “rapid acquisition entities.”  For purposes of this update, the terms are synonymous.

[2]SeeOffice of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Report to Congress on the Review of Acquisition Processes for Rapid Fielding of Capabilities in Response to Urgent Operational Needs, May 2013. DOD indicated that the report responded to section 804(a) of the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, among other reporting requirements and direction.

[3] See Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3170.01H, Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (Jan. 10, 2012).

[4] See Department of Defense Directive 5000.71, Rapid Fulfillment of Combatant Commander Urgent Operational Needs (Aug. 24, 2012).

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense
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