Defense Nuclear Enterprise:

DOD Has Established Processes for Implementing and Tracking Recommendations to Improve Leadership, Morale, and Operations

GAO-16-597R: Published: Jul 14, 2016. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 2016.

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Joseph W. Kirschbaum
(202) 512-9971


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What GAO Found

GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) has established a process for implementing the recommendations made in two nuclear enterprise reviews the Secretary of Defense directed in response to several incidents involving the nation’s nuclear deterrent forces. In November 2014, the Secretary of Defense directed the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to track and assess the implementation of the recommendations from the two nuclear enterprise reviews. The Joint Staff, Navy, Air Force, offices within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Strategic Command are supporting CAPE’s efforts. CAPE compiled the recommendations from the two reviews and a memorandum from the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command that identified several additional recommendations. CAPE identified 175 distinct recommendations from the three documents. CAPE then identified 247 sub-recommendations from recommendations directed to multiple services (or other DOD components). CAPE then worked with the services to identify offices of primary responsibility for implementing actions to address the recommendations, any offices of coordinating responsibility, and any resources necessary to implement each recommendation.

CAPE and the services have developed tracking tools to collect information on progress in meeting milestones and metrics. Information from CAPE’s centralized tracking tool is used to inform a group of senior officials, known as the Nuclear Deterrence Enterprise Review Group, which oversees the department’s progress. As of April 2016, CAPE reported that 20 of the sub-recommendations were closed, 28 had been identified as complete by the responsible DOD component and were in the process of being reviewed for possible closure, and 199 were in progress. The processes DOD has developed generally appear consistent with relevant criteria within the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government—including using and effectively communicating quality information and performing monitoring activities. CAPE has also begun to include information related to assessing and responding to risk within its tracking process.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has identified nuclear deterrence as its highest priority mission. In 2014, in response to several incidents involving the nation’s nuclear deterrent forces and their senior leadership, the Secretary of Defense directed two reviews of DOD’s nuclear enterprise. These two reviews identified problems with leadership, organization, investment, morale, policy, and procedures, as well as other shortcomings that are adversely affecting the nuclear deterrence mission. The reviews also made recommendations to address these problems.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 includes a provision for GAO to review DOD’s process for addressing the recommendations of the nuclear enterprise reviews. In addition, Senate Report 114-49 includes a provision that GAO review certain matters related to DOD’s approach for addressing the recommendations. This report describes the extent to which DOD has established processes to (1) implement the recommendations of the two nuclear enterprise reviews and (2) track the implementation of these recommendations and measure the effectiveness of the actions it has taken to address them.

To identify DOD’s processes for implementing the recommendations, tracking the progress of the implementation, and measuring the effectiveness of actions taken, GAO reviewed key documents and interviewed DOD officials regarding the processes the department and services have developed. We compared the processes to relevant criteria from Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government.

For more information, contact Joseph W. Kirschbaum at (202) 512-9971 or

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