National Guard and Reserves:
Air Force Needs to Consistently Assess Personnel Requirements to Appropriately Size Its Headquarters Reserve Components
GAO-16-538: Published: Aug 12, 2016. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 2016.
What GAO Found
From fiscal years 2013 through 2016, the total number of authorized full-time support positions at the Army's and Air Force's Reserve Components' headquarters—which oversee subordinate units, or provide administrative or overhead support—decreased from 7,407 to 5,041 positions overall (about 32 percent, see figure). Department of Defense (DOD) officials attribute this decrease to the Deputy Secretary of Defense's headquarters reduction efforts. Each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam also have National Guard forces that can be activated for federal missions. Over the same period, authorized full-time support positions for the National Guard increased in the selected four states GAO reviewed: Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas.
Trends in Army and Air Force Headquarters Reserve Components' Combined Authorized Full-Time Support Positions, since Fiscal Year 2013
The Army and Air Force Reserve Components have assessed some of their headquarters' personnel requirements, but not all relevant Air Force organizations have done so and in the time frames specified in guidance. The Army has assessed and validated 49 percent of the aggregate personnel requirements of its Reserve Components' headquarters, but officials told GAO that the Army is currently focusing on conducting non-headquarters assessments. Since November 2013, the Air Force has not assessed two of its Reserve Component headquarters: Headquarters, Air National Guard and the Office of the Director, Air National Guard. An Air Force official stated that two different Air Force guidance documents should be used in tandem, but Air National Guard officials were unaware of this. The same Air Force official stated that the Air Force would modify the existing guidance within the year to clarify that all Air Force Reserve Components' headquarters should conduct assessments of personnel requirements. Additionally, Air Force organizations were unclear about the frequency with which they should conduct assessments. While the guidance states that assessments should be done biannually, or twice a year, Air Force organizations that have conducted assessments have done so generally every 1 or 2 years. As the Air Force considers revising its guidance, it has an opportunity to clarify the frequency with which its organizations should conduct these assessments.
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD has sought and Congress has directed the department to identify areas to reduce costs by assessing headquarters and overhead functions. The Army and Air Force each have two Reserve Components—a National Guard and a Reserve—with approximately 715,000 members combined, comprising about one-half (53 percent) and one-third (36 percent) of the Army's and Air Force's total authorized personnel, respectively.
Senate Report 114-49 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's Army and Air Force Reserve Components' headquarters. Among other things, this report (1) describes the trends in authorized full-time support positions at Army and Air Force Reserve Components' headquarters as well as in four selected states since fiscal year 2013 and (2) evaluates the extent to which DOD assessed personnel requirements for the Army and Air Force Reserve Components' headquarters since fiscal year 2013. GAO analyzed and interviewed DOD officials responsible for documentation, such as guidance and assessments, and conducted nongeneralizeable case studies in four selected states that GAO reviewed in a November 2013 report.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making two recommendations, including that the Air Force revise its guidance to clarify the frequency with which all of its Reserve Component headquarters should assess personnel requirements. DOD generally agreed with the recommendations.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Comments: In July 2017, DOD officials stated that the Air Force updated existing guidance to clarify the frequency of assessments of applicable headquarters activities, and this revised guidance is awaiting final signature, expected in September 2017. According to officials, the revised Air Force guidance now includes draft language, which states that Headquarters, Air Force; major commands; and the Air National Guard Headquarters element should establish an internal engineered factor and evaluate headquarters strength relative to the factor every year concurrently with fiscal year budget decisions that change allocated force structure. Once the revised guidance has been finalized, GAO will review the updated guidance and re-assess the implementation status of this recommendation.
Recommendation: To ensure that its Reserve Components' headquarters are conducting assessments with sufficient frequency, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to, when updating its existing guidance to clarify to which organizations it applies, also clarify whether assessments should be conducted twice yearly or every 2 years, or at some other frequency.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Comments: In July 2017, DOD officials stated that only the Air Force can provide and develop factors, tools, and overarching industrial and management engineering methodologies to accurately quantify the essential manpower required for the effective and efficient accomplishment of capabilities supporting oversight of the Air Force. These officials went on to add that Joint Force Headquarters-State are not active Air Force organizations. Accordingly, the National Guard Bureau and the states must determine personnel requirements associated with National Guard Bureau and state missions. For example, these officials stated that the National Guard Bureau continues to use all Air Force developed factors, tools and overarching industrial and management engineering methodologies to accurately quantify the essential manpower required at Joint Force Headquarters-State. They also stated that the Joint Force Headquarters-States' manpower requirements have been placed on the National Guard Bureau's full-time manpower study schedule for fiscal year 2017 and will undergo an immediate currency review. Additionally, every two years from the fiscal year 2017 currency review, the National Guard Bureau will re-assess and quantify essential manpower requirements at each of the Joint Force Headquarters-State. GAO requested additional information (e.g., guidance requiring Air Staff elements to conduct personnel requirements assessments at the Joint Force Headquarters-State, results of the inclusion of Joint Force Headquarters-State in the National Guard Bureau's full time manpower requirements study for fiscal year 2017) and will re-assess the implementation status of this recommendation upon receiving the requested documentation.
Recommendation: To ensure that the Office of the Director, Air National Guard has the number of personnel needed to accomplish their missions and performance objectives at the Joint Force Headquarters - State, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force, in coordination with the Chief, National Guard Bureau, to require assessments of Air Staff element personnel requirements at the Joint Force Headquarters - State.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense