Military Personnel:

DOD Lacks Reliable Personnel Tempo Data and Needs Quality Controls to Improve Data Accuracy

GAO-07-780: Published: Jul 17, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 2007.

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Congress has repeatedly expressed concerns about the pace of military operations and 10 U.S.C. 487 requires that the Department of Defense (DOD) annually report on personnel tempo--the time servicemembers spend away from home. Section 345 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 directed GAO to report on a number of Army and Marine Corps issues. For this report GAO addresses the extent to which (1) changes in mobilization and deployment policies have affected reserve component availability and provided an approach to meet the requirements for the global war on terrorism; and, (2) DOD, the Army, and the Marine Corps have collected, maintained, and reported complete and accurate personnel tempo data. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed data from DOD's Personnel Tempo and Contingency Tracking System databases, and interviewed agency officials.

On January 19, 2007, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum which changed mobilization and deployment policies and increased reserve component availability, making virtually all reserve component personnel available on an indefinitely recurrent basis under a long-term approach for meeting the requirements for the global war on terror. Previously, involuntary reserve component mobilizations for the global war on terrorism were limited to 24 cumulative months; there is no cumulative time limit on involuntary mobilizations under the new policy. DOD's new policies provide for an integrated approach to manage the long-term requirements for the global war on terrorism while addressing issues that had previously been addressed in a piecemeal fashion. The new policies emphasize the importance of deployment predictability and unit cohesion and they contain deployment rotation goals, which differ between the active and reserve components. In taking this long-term approach, DOD has recognized that it will not be able to immediately achieve its rotation goals and some units will be remobilized sooner than the standard. Therefore, the Secretary also directed that a program be established to compensate servicemembers who are required to mobilize or deploy early or often or extend beyond the established rotation policy goals. DOD has reported personnel tempo data to Congress and the President since 2001, but the reports have not been complete and accurate because the Army and Marine Corps do not have quality controls in place to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the reports' underlying data. In October 2001, DOD waived two statutory personnel tempo requirements due to national security interests. As permitted by the statutes, DOD waived the high-deployment payment provision and the management of servicemember deployments which approach or exceeded certain thresholds. With the provisions waived, two mechanisms that would identify faulty personnel tempo data were no longer in place, and the services lacked any other quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy of the data they were collecting and sending to DOD. Despite DOD guidance requiring complete and accurate personnel tempo data, service reviews have found that the collection and tracking of tempo data have not been accurate. In 2005, the Army Human Resources Command reported that personnel tempo was not properly recorded for 72 percent of forward-deployed soldiers. In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, Marine Corps inspection teams found that inspected commands did not have procedures in place to ensure that personnel tempo information was accurately reported. DOD's focus on collecting deployment data for ongoing operations has shifted its attention away from personnel tempo reporting and DOD recently sent a proposal to Congress to modify the definition of deployments. If approved, the new definition would be used to revise personnel tempo thresholds and related compensation. Until DOD establishes quality control procedures, Congress and users of DOD's personnel tempo data need to use caution because they cannot be assured that the data fully and accurately reflect servicemembers' actual tempos.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Following the issuance of our report, on July 28, 2009, the Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness)issued DOD Instruction 1336.07 "Reporting of Personnel Tempo Events". While the instruction noted that "The Military Service is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of each electronic data transfer." the instruction directed "the Director, Defense Human Resources Activity...maintain the PERSTEMPO events database and provide data quality control analysis and reporting... through the Director of the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC)" and it did not direct the services to develop quality control procedures for validating the accuracy of the personnel data they collect and report to DMDC, as we recommended.

    Recommendation: To improve the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the personnel tempo data that DOD reports to Congress and the President, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to provide guidance which directs the Army and Marine Corps to develop quality control procedures for validating the accuracy of the personnel tempo data they collect and report to Defense Manpower Data Center, whether under the existing personnel tempo definition or under any revised definitions that Congress may approve.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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