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.
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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
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and on May 23, 2018 published a revised Air Force Instruction 38-204, Manpower and Organization: Manpower Programming, which clarified the frequency of assessments of applicable headquarters activities. Specifically, the instruction now states that, as missions and force structure change, so should the size of the Major DOD Headquarters Activities' manpower element. Moreover, Headquarters, Air Force; major commands; and the Air National Guard Headquarters element should establish an internal engineered factor based on units, dollars, end strength, or a combination thereof, and then assess the headquarters strength relative to the factor every year concurrently with fiscal year budget decisions that change allocated force structure. Given the Air Force's revised guidance that clarifies for which organizations the guidance applies along with the requirement for annual assessments, this recommendation has been closed as implemented.
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
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. In June 2016, the National Guard Bureau issued the initial publication of Chief National Guard Bureau Instruction 1001.01. This instruction established policy and assigned responsibilities for National Guard Joint Force Headquarters-State manpower planning, among other things, and applies to all elements of the National Guard, including the Air National Guard. Specifically, the instruction states that the Director of the Air National Guard, among others, will assist in validating the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters-State "Joint Element" manpower requirements to obtain the required manpower resources through Service budget processes. The Secretary of the Air Force has also issued implementation guidance on implementing manpower and organization-related policies. For example, Air Force Instruction 38-101, issued in August 2019, explains how the Air National Guard, among other units and organizations, defines manpower requirements and allocates resources-including by (1) developing and approving various manpower determinant and resource costing models to quantify Air National Guard manpower requirements, (2) approving and distributing the Air National Guard manpower study schedule, and (3) developing, posting, and maintaining Air National Guard full-time manpower determinants and variances. Additionally, Air Force Manual 38-102, issued in September 2019, provides Air National Guard personnel, among others, with guidance for determining manpower requirements-including by reviewing each manpower determinant for currency at least every 2 years. In March 2020, National Guard Bureau/Air Force officials stated that the Air National Guard validated the air manpower requirements that contribute to the overall Joint Force Headquarters-State workload by using a staffing pattern methodology supported by historical records and information. Moreover, these officials provided copies of their most current full-time manpower requirement and rule set for our review, and stated that these products are reviewed for currency every 2 years and applied to each state or applicable territory upon validation. The last review of these documents was conducted in fiscal year 2019 and the next review is scheduled for fiscal year 2021, according to the same officials. As a result of the Secretary of the Air Force's issuance of multiple implementation guidance documents on required processes for conducting assessments of Air Staff element personnel requirements at the Joint Force Headquarters-State, this recommendation is closed as implemented.
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