Military Training:

DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges Report

GAO-12-879R: Published: Sep 12, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 2012.

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Brian J. Lepore
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What GAO Found

In our view, DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report meets the annual statutory reporting requirements that DOD describe its progress in implementing its sustainable ranges plan and any additional actions taken or to be taken in addressing training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace. DOD's 2012 report also provides updates to several elements of the plan that the act required DOD to include in its original submission in 2004. These elements include (1) proposals to enhance training range capabilities and address any shortfalls in resources, (2) goals and milestones for tracking planned actions and measuring progress, and (3) projected funding requirements for implementing planned actions, among others. Taken together, these elements of DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report describe the department's progress in implementing its comprehensive plan and addressing training constraints at its ranges, thus meeting the annual reporting requirements of the act.

DOD has taken action in response to all 13 prior GAO recommendations that focused on meeting the requirements of the act and improving the report submissions and has completed implementation of all but two of those recommendations. In response to three recommendations in our 2011 report, DOD included additional information in its goals, actions, and milestones and funding requirements sections in the 2012 sustainable ranges report. In our earlier reviews of DOD's annual sustainable ranges report, we identified a total of 10 recommendations. DOD has since completed implementation of all but two of the prior recommendations, which related to readiness reporting. DOD has been addressing these two recommendations by developing and testing a range assessment module for the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS), and expects to complete its review by the end of fiscal year 2012. Through the changes DOD has implemented in its annual reporting over the past several years, many based on GAO recommendations, DOD has continued to improve its reporting on its sustainable ranges. We are making no new recommendations in this report.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Department of Defense (DOD) relies on access to military land, airspace, sea space, and frequency spectrum to provide its forces a realistic training environment that will ready them to face combat or complex missions around the globe. Over the decades, however, several factors collectively known as encroachment have increasingly challenged the military's access to these resources. Additionally, increased operational tempo and overseas deployments, specifically in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, have strained the ability of some existing range resources and infrastructures to continue supporting training at the levels required by DOD and the military services. To respond to these challenges and increase the long-term sustainability of its military range resources, DOD has launched a number of efforts aimed both at preserving its training ranges and addressing the effects of its training activities on the environment and on local communities.

Section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (as amended) required DOD to submit a comprehensive plan for using existing authorities available to the department to address training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace in the United States and overseas to Congress at the same time as the President submitted his budget for fiscal year 2004. Further, Section 366 required DOD to submit an annual progress report to Congress along with the President's budget for fiscal years 2005 through 2013. To address these requirements, DOD has submitted an annual sustainable ranges report since 2004. In addition, the act directed us to submit annual evaluations of DOD's reports to Congress within 90 days of receiving these reports from DOD. Our review of DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report is our ninth annual report in response to the act. In this review, we discuss (1) the extent to which DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report meets the statutory requirements and (2) the extent to which DOD has acted on GAO recommendations to improve its report submissions and what opportunities, if any, exist for DOD to improve future reporting.

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