Military Personnel:

Actions Needed to Improve Evaluation and Oversight of Reserve Officers' Training Corps Programs

GAO-14-93: Published: Nov 13, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 2013.

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What GAO Found

From fiscal years 2008 through 2012, each military service met at least 91 percent of their overall Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) goals for producing the number of officers needed to meet service end strength authorizations, but each has reported challenges in commissioning officers for some certain occupational specialties, such as engineers and nurses. Further, GAO's analysis found that half of the Department of Defense's (DOD) ROTC units did not meet DOD's minimum average annual production requirement over the 5-year period reviewed. Further, cost per commissioned officer varies greatly depending on unit production. For example, excluding tuition costs, the average cost per officer produced across all units was about $68,000, compared to an average cost of about $95,000 per officer for units that produced fewer than 15 officers on average annually from fiscal years 2008 through 2012.

DOD's instruction specifies factors to consider before closing ROTC units, but these factors do not constitute clearly defined performance measures that provide a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness and efficiency of ROTC programs, and service evaluations of ROTC programs are ad hoc. DOD's instruction specifies that in assessing units for closure, the services are to consider the quality of officers produced by a unit but it does not clearly define characteristics that comprise quality, which has led to the inconsistent application of the measure by the services. The services conducted 11 evaluations over the past decade to assess performance and identify units for consolidation or closure. However, the evaluations have largely occurred on an ad hoc basis because the services have not established a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance. Key attributes of successful performance measures include clearly, defined measures. Moreover, results-oriented program management practices include routine program evaluations that determine how well a program is working. Without clearly defined performance measures and routinely conducted evaluations, it will be difficult for the services to accurately determine if ROTC programs are effectively and efficiently operating.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) conducts some oversight functions, such as setting policy for the ROTC program. However, although specified in guidance, OSD does not review the services' methodologies for closing ROTC units because OSD officials believe this is a service responsibility. Further, the services do not consistently communicate with key stakeholders, such as members of Congress and schools, about performance of ROTC programs, except when closure decisions are being considered. This may have contributed to the difficulty the services have experienced in gaining political support for such closures. GAO has noted that regular communication with stakeholders helps build trusting relationships to gain buy-in. Without clearly delineated responsibilities for oversight of ROTC programs and a formal strategy to communicate with key stakeholders on ROTC program performance, DOD will find it difficult to obtain the support that is needed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ROTC programs.

Why GAO Did This Study

ROTC is the largest source of newly commissioned officers for DOD. GAO's analysis of DOD data identified more than 9,000 officers commissioned from ROTC in fiscal year 2012. ROTC is critical for producing officers from the nation's colleges and universities to meet the leadership and readiness needs of the armed forces. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 mandated GAO to review the services' ROTC programs. This report assesses the extent that ROTC programs (1) met goals and minimum annual requirements for producing officers over a 5-year period, (2) have established performance measures and conducted evaluations for managing ROTC programs, and (3) are subject to oversight and have effective processes for communicating with key stakeholders. GAO analyzed ROTC production data from fiscal years 2008 through 2012; reviewed relevant legislation and DOD and service policies and guidance for ROTC; and reviewed and discussed assessments of ROTC efficiency and effectiveness, and oversight of ROTC with officials from OSD and the services.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations to DOD, to include establishing clearly defined performance measures and conducting routine program evaluations; reexamining oversight roles and responsibilities; and developing a strategy for communicating with Congress and other key stakeholders on program performance. DOD concurred with each of GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation in written comments on our report. The March 2018 version of Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs," requires the Military Departments to conduct an annual assessment of each ROTC unit and submit a summary to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. The DODI states that the Secretaries of the Military Departments are responsible for developing performance measures for use in the annual assessments and will determine annual assessment criteria. The DODI states that the assessments will include quality, demography, and resources categories and may include service-specific measures as well. Standards for the resource measures' category include cost components. According to DOD, a joint services and DOD working group developed updates to the DODI to address this recommendation. This recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that OSD, the military services, and congressional decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of whether ROTC programs are achieving desired results in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, to establish a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance that includes establishing performance measures that are clearly defined and include cost components.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation in written comments on our report. The March 2018 version of Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs," requires the Military Departments to conduct an annual assessment of each ROTC unit and submit a summary to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. The DODI states that the Secretaries of the Military Departments are responsible for developing performance measures for use in the annual assessments that evaluate the extent to which each unit is meeting the strategic goals and objectives of their Military Service's ROTC program. According to DOD, a joint services and DOD working group developed updates to the DODI to address this recommendation. This recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that OSD, the military services, and congressional decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of whether ROTC programs are achieving desired results in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, to establish a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance that includes requiring routine evaluations of ROTC programs that measure progress against the strategic goals and objectives of ROTC programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation in written comments on our report. The March 2018 version of Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs," requires the Military Departments to conduct an annual assessment of each ROTC unit and submit a summary to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. The DODI states that the assessment is to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of each ROTC unit as well as to develop information by which to determine what the annual production necessary for ROTC programs to be considered viable within DOD. According to DOD, a joint services and DOD working group developed updates to the DODI to address this recommendation. This recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that OSD, the military services, and congressional decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of whether ROTC programs are achieving desired results in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, to establish a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance that includes using the performance information resulting from ROTC program evaluations to assess and document the need for the existing number of units,

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation in written comments on our report. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (USD(P&R)) published a March 2018 version of Department of Defense Instruction 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs" which assigns DOD oversight and management of ROTC programs to USD(P&R). The instruction further assigns the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs as the focal point for ROTC matters and the responsibility to assess and monitor ROTC operations for cost-effectiveness. It states the Secretaries' of the Military Departments responsibility to monitor and assess ROTC units and to ensure appropriate oversight of its Military Department's ROTC program. This recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To help improve the oversight and accountability of the military services' ROTC programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to reexamine and clarify DOD Instruction 1215.08 to clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for oversight of ROTC programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation in written comments on our report. An April 2016 letter from the Director of Accession Policy, MPP, ASD(M&RA) to the DOD OIG states that the services reviewed and adjusted their current procedures and metrics in advance of the projected DODI publication date. However, in August 2018, we requested documentation of the services' efforts outlined in the letter to the DOD OIG and to verify that the services had taken the requisite steps to address our recommendation--namely, that their ROTC guidance aligned with the updated DODI. As of August 29, 2018, DOD has not provided documentation of the services' steps to address the recommendation and thus the recommendation remains open.

    Recommendation: To help improve the oversight and accountability of the military services' ROTC programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to coordinate with the military services to ensure that service ROTC guidance aligns with the updated DOD instruction.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation in written comments on our report. The March 2018 version of DODI 1215.08 directs the services to provide criteria, annual assessments, and decisions about establishment/disestablishment of ROTC units to institution presidents. It also states that the ROTC resources summary report will be the basis for responding to congressional and public inquiries. However, the DODI did not include and DOD has not developed a strategy to periodically communicate with Congress on ROTC program performance, as we recommended. Thus, the recommendation remains open.

    Recommendation: To help improve the oversight and accountability of the military services' ROTC programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop and implement, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, a strategy to periodically communicate with Congress and other key stakeholders on ROTC program performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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