Defense Acquisitions:

DOD's Requirements Determination Process Has Not Been Effective in Prioritizing Joint Capabilities

GAO-08-1060: Published: Sep 25, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2008.

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Increasing combat demands and fiscal constraints make it critical for the Department of Defense (DOD) to ensure that its weapon system investments not only meet the needs of the warfighter, but make the most efficient use of available resources. GAO's past work has shown that achieving this balance has been a challenge and weapon programs have often experienced cost growth and delayed delivery to the warfighter. In 2003, DOD implemented the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) to prioritize and ensure that the warfighter's most essential needs are met. In response to Senate Report 109-69, GAO reported in March 2007 that DOD lacks an effective approach to balance its weapon system investments with available resources. This follow-on report focuses on (1) whether the JCIDS process has achieved its objective to prioritize joint warfighting needs and (2) factors that have affected DOD's ability to effectively implement JCIDS. To conduct its work, GAO reviewed JCIDS guidance and capability documents and budgetary and programming data on major weapon systems, and interviewed DOD officials.

The JCIDS process has not yet been effective in identifying and prioritizing warfighting needs from a joint, departmentwide perspective. GAO reviewed JCIDS documentation related to proposals for new capabilities and found that most--almost 70 percent--were sponsored by the military services, with little involvement from the joint community--including the combatant commands (COCOMs), which are largely responsible for planning and carrying out military operations. By continuing to rely on capability proposals that lack a joint perspective, DOD may be losing opportunities to improve joint warfighting capabilities and reduce the duplication of capabilities in some areas. In addition, virtually all capability proposals that have gone through the JCIDS process since 2003 have been validated--or approved. DOD continues to have a portfolio with more programs than available resources can support. For example, the remaining costs for major weapon system programs in DOD's portfolio went from being about four times greater to almost six times greater than annual funding available during fiscal year 2000 through 2007. The JCIDS process has also proven to be lengthy--taking on average up to 10 months to validate a need--which further undermines efforts to effectively respond to the needs of the warfighter, especially those that are near-term. DOD lacks an analytical approach to prioritize joint capability needs and determine the relative importance of capability proposals submitted to the JCIDS process. Further, the functional capabilities boards, which were established to manage the JCIDS process and facilitate the prioritization of needs, have not been staffed or resourced to effectively carry out these duties. Instead, the military services retain most of DOD's analytical capacity and resources for requirements development. The Joint Staff recently initiated a project to capture the near-, mid-, and long-term needs of the services and other defense components, and to synthesize them with the needs of the COCOMs. However, DOD officials told us that determining how best to integrate COCOM and service capability perspectives will be challenging because of differences in roles, missions, and time frames. Efforts have also begun to streamline the process and reduce the time it takes to validate proposals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and revised both the JCIDS instruction and the associated guidance to specifically address the joint prioritization of capability needs. In January 2012, the JROC updated its operating manual and required that its subordinate bodies - the Functional Capabilities Boards - develop joint priorities for validated capability requirements, which could be used to inform DOD's annual program and budget review. The updated manual also created distinct processes for urgent (near-term) and emergent (mid-term) operational needs. Specifically, it established that urgent operational needs - related to ongoing contingency operations - are expected to be addressed within two years, and that emergent operational needs - related to anticipated contingency operations - are expected to be addressed within five years. The updated manual also established that urgent operational needs shall be staffed for validation within 15 calendar days, and that emergent operational needs shall be staffed for validation within 31 calendar days.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop an analytic approach within JCIDS to better prioritize and balance the capability needs of the military services, COCOMs, and other defense components. The Joint Staff should consider whether current efforts--particularly, the capabilities prioritization project--should be adopted as a framework for this approach. The approach should also establish appropriate criteria and measures for identifying capability gaps and determining the relative importance of near-, mid-, and long-term capability needs. Ultimately, the approach should provide a means to review and validate proposals more efficiently and ensure that the most important capability needs of the department are being addressed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation, but asserted that the resources currently allocated for joint capabilities development planning are appropriate. DOD also has several initiatives to strengthen the involvement of the joint community in determining capability needs. For example, in September 2008, the JROC began to experiment with delegation of Joint Capability Board (JCB) requirements validation responsibility to functional combatant commands (COCOMS). Under this experiment, functional COCOMS are responsible for evaluating capabilities within their Joint Capability Area portfolios and, when appropriate, make recommendations to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) regarding capability validation. Also, in October 2008, the JROC delegated JCB authority for command and control capabilities to Joint Forces Command. In 2009, DOD delegated responsibility for logistics topics to U.S. Transportation Command and authority for the management and approval of most special operations-specific capability documents to the U.S. Special Operations Command.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should determine and allocate appropriate resources for joint capabilities development planning. In so doing, the Secretary should consider whether the responsibility and capacity of the COCOMs and FCBs to conduct joint capabilities development planning should be increased, whether one or more of the functional COCOMs should be given the responsibility and capacity to conduct joint capabilities development planning, and whether resources currently residing within the military services for capabilities development planning should be shifted to the COCOMs and FCBs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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