Defense Headquarters:

DOD Needs to Periodically Review and Improve Visibility Of Combatant Commands' Resources

GAO-13-293: Published: May 15, 2013. Publicly Released: May 15, 2013.

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What GAO Found

GAO's analysis of resources devoted to the Department of Defense's (DOD) geographic combatant commands shows that authorized military and civilian positions and mission and headquarters-support costs have grown considerably over the last decade due to the addition of two new commands and increases in authorized positions at theater special operations commands. Data provided by the commands shows that authorized military and civilian positions increased by about 50 percent from fiscal years 2001 through 2012, to about 10,100 authorized positions. In addition, mission and headquarters support-costs at the combatant commands more than doubled from fiscal years 2007 through 2012, to about $1.1 billion. Both authorized military and civilian positions and mission and headquarters-support costs at the service component commands supporting the combatant commands also increased. Data on the number of personnel performing contract services across the combatant commands and service component commands varied or was unavailable, and thus trends could not be identified.

DOD has taken some steps to manage combatant commands' resources, but its processes to review size and oversee the commands have four primary weaknesses that challenge the department's ability to make informed decisions.

  • DOD considers the combatant commands' requests for additional positions, but it does not periodically evaluate the commands' authorized positions to ensure they are still needed to meet the commands' assigned missions.
  • DOD tracks some assigned personnel; however, all personnel supporting the commands are not included in DOD's personnel management system and reviews of assigned personnel vary by command.
  • The service component commands support both service and combatant command missions. However, the Joint Staff and combatant commands lack visibility and oversight over the authorized manpower and personnel at the service component commands to determine whether functions at the combatant commands can be fulfilled by service component command personnel.
  • Each military department submits annual budget documents for operation and maintenance to inform Congress of total authorized positions, full-time equivalents, and mission and headquarters-support funding for all combatant commands that they support. However, these documents do not provide transparency into the resources directed to each combatant command.

GAO's work on strategic human capital management found that high-performing organizations periodically reevaluate their human capital practices and use complete and reliable data to help achieve their missions and ensure resources are properly matched to the needs of today's environment. Until DOD effectively manages the resources of the combatant commands, it may be difficult to ensure that the commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions, or to identify opportunities to carry out those missions efficiently.

Why GAO Did This Study

To perform its missions around the world, DOD operates geographic combatant commands each with thousands of personnel. In response to direction from the congressional committees to review the resources of the combatant commands, GAO (1) identified the trends in the resources devoted to DOD's geographic combatant commands and their service component commands, and (2) assessed the extent that DOD has processes in place to manage and oversee the resources of the combatant commands. For this review, GAO obtained and analyzed data on resources, to include authorized positions and mission and headquarters-support costs, for five regional combatant commands' and their service component commands, excluding U.S. Central Command. GAO also interviewed officials regarding commands' manpower and personnel policies and procedures for reporting resources.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends DOD: require a periodic evaluation of the combatant commands' size and structure; use existing systems to manage and track all assigned personnel; develop a process to gather information on authorized manpower and assigned personnel at the service component commands; and require information in the budget on authorized positions, full-time equivalents, and funding for each combatant command. DOD nonconcurred with GAO's first recommendation, but GAO believes it is still needed to add rigor to the manpower requirements process. DOD concurred with GAO's three other recommendations.

For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-3489 or pendletonj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) did not concur with our recommendation, stating that the combatant commands had already been reduced during previous budget and efficiency reviews. The department also noted that any periodic review of the combatant commands' size and structure must include a review of assigned missions, and that a requirement for a mission review was not appropriate for inclusion in the commands' guiding instruction on personnel requirements. However, DOD has taken some actions to better manage the combatant command headquarters activities and personnel as GAO recommended in May 2013. First, DOD has taken actions to control management headquarters authorized positions and funding levels across the department, including those at the combatant commands, through the budget process. For example, in a May 2017 memorandum entitled: Lifting the Hiring Freeze for Civilian Employees, the Deputy Secretary of Defense stated that components must operate within the full-time equivalent authorization and funding limits established in the fiscal year 2017 President's budget, including the Future Years Defense Program. Notably, current baselines, divestiture requirements, and hiring limitations applicable to major headquarters activities remain in effect. Major headquarters activities billet adjustments or growth was not authorized unless approved through the program review and budget process. Additionally, in the conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the defense committees by January 1, 2020 that provides a description of the headquarters staff of each geographic combatant command, as well as each sub-unified command and service component command under the geographic combatant command. According to DOD officials, as of March 2020, the Department has not completed the report and they could not provide an estimated timeframe for its completion. As part of this effort, the Secretary of Defense was also directed to submit a report by January 1, 2021 recommending the number of military and civilian personnel required in the headquarters element to execute the missions and functions of each geographic combatant command. Further, in a January 6, 2020 memorandum entitled: Department of Defense Reform Focus in 2020, the Secretary of Defense announced plans to lead a series of reviews with the combatant commands in 2020, to focus on strategic priorities, harvest opportunities to reduce costs, and realign forces and manpower in order to support National Defense Strategy priorities and rebuild readiness. This effort includes establishing a common baseline understanding of all tasks, missions, and overall resources and costs within the commands. According to the memorandum, the goal is to review all the commands in time to inform the fiscal year 2022-2026 program budget review. GAO will continue to monitor DOD's efforts to better manage the combatant command headquarters activities and personnel. Although the department has taken some positive steps, GAO continues to believe that institutionalizing a comprehensive, periodic evaluation of the combatant commands would help to ensure efficient use of resources.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to revise Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1001.01A to require a comprehensive, periodic evaluation of whether the size and structure of the combatant commands meet assigned missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) updated its personnel management guidance to require the commands to identify and track all personnel in its personnel management system as GAO recommended. In November 2012, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness issued guidance that established the Fourth Estate Manpower Tracking System (formerly known as the electronic Joint Manpower and Personnel System or e-JMAPS) as the single authoritative manpower system for the combatant commands and other DOD components. In addition, in October 2014, DOD revised the relevant Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff guidance, issuing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1001.01B, Joint Manpower and Personnel Program, to require the combatant commands and other joint activities to identify, manage, and track personnel in the Fourth Estate Manpower Tracking System. The updated instruction identifies specific guidelines and time frames for the combatant commands and other joint activities to input and review assigned personnel in the Fourth Estate Manpower Tracking System. DOD's actions to update its personnel management guidance meet the intent of our recommendation and should help ensure that DOD has comprehensive data to inform its personnel needs.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to revise Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1001.01A to require the combatant commands to identify, manage, and track all personnel, including temporary personnel such as civilian overhires and activated reservists, in Electronic Joint Manpower and Personnel System (e-JMAPS) and identify specific guidelines and timeframes for the combatant commands to consistently input and review assigned personnel in e-JMAPS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with the recommendation. However, 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 March 2020, Joint Staff officials told GAO that 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 GAO reported on in 2013. 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.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in coordination with the combatant commanders and the secretaries of the military departments, to develop and implement a formal process to gather information on authorized manpower and assigned personnel at the service component commands.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2014, DOD officials reported that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) had reinstituted an existing budgetary document, the President's Budget 58 (PB-58), Combatant Command Direct Funding, and directed the military services to use this budget exhibit in its guidance on submission of the fiscal years 2016 through 2020 program and budget. The PB-58 provides the department's justification and visibility for changes in the level of resources required for each combatant command. The military services are required to submit the PB-58 as part of their annual budget documents for operation and maintenance. Details supporting the PB-58 exhibit are explained within the Department of Defense's Financial Management Regulation Volume 2A Chapter 3. While the PB-58 does not provide detailed information on the number of authorized military or civilian positions and contractor full time equivalents at each combatant command, it does identify the funding required by each combatant command for mission and headquarters support, which, in general, satisfies the intent of our recommendation and should help provide decision makers with the information needed for effective oversight and help ensure the efficient use of resources.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the geographic combatant commands are properly sized to meet their assigned missions and to improve the transparency of the commands' authorized manpower, assigned personnel, and mission and headquarters-support costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to revise volume 2A, chapter 1 of DOD's Financial Management Regulation 7000.14R to require the military departments, in their annual budget documents for operation and maintenance, to identify the authorized military positions and civilian and contractor full-time equivalents at each combatant command and provide detailed information on funding required by each command for mission and headquarters support, such as civilian pay, contract services, travel, and supplies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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