Improved Performance Measures and Information Needed for Assessing Asset Visibility Initiatives
GAO-17-183: Published: Mar 16, 2017. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 2017.
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What GAO Found
The Department of Defense (DOD) has identified performance measures for the eight selected asset visibility initiatives GAO reviewed, but these performance measures generally cannot be used to monitor progress. Specifically, GAO found that the measures for the eight initiatives reviewed did not generally include key attributes of successful performance measures. For example, for six initiatives there were no baseline and trend data associated with the measures. While DOD's 2014 and 2015 Strategy for Improving DOD Asset Visibility (Strategies) called for performance measures to be identified for the initiatives, the Strategies lacked complete direction on how to develop performance measures that would allow DOD to assess the progress of the initiatives toward their intended outcomes. GAO also found that after-action reports for the initiatives did not always include key information needed to determine the success of the initiatives in achieving the goals described in the Strategies. Without improved performance measures and information to support that progress has been made, DOD may not be able to monitor and show progress in improving asset visibility.
DOD has made progress and meets the criteria related to capacity and its corrective action plan but needs to take additional actions to monitor implementation and demonstrate progress to meet GAO's two remaining criteria for removal from the High Risk List, as shown in the figure. For the capacity criterion, in its draft update to the 2015 Strategy, DOD provides guidance on how to document cases where the funding for the initiatives is embedded within the overall program funding. Also, for the action plan criterion, DOD included matrixes in its 2015 Strategy to link ongoing initiatives to the Strategy's goals and objectives. DOD has also taken steps to monitor the status of initiatives. However, the performance measures for the selected initiatives that GAO reviewed generally cannot be used to track progress and are not consistently incorporated into reports to demonstrate results. Until these criteria are met, DOD will have limited ability to demonstrate sustained progress in improving asset visibility.
DOD's Progress in Meeting GAO's High-Risk Criteria for Asset Visibility
Why GAO Did This Study
GAO designated DOD's supply chain management as a high-risk area in 1990 and in February 2011 reported that limitations in asset visibility make it difficult to obtain timely and accurate information on assets that are present in a theater of operations. DOD defines asset visibility as the ability to provide timely and accurate information on the location, quantity, condition, movement, and status of items in its inventory. In 2015, GAO found that DOD had demonstrated leadership commitment and made considerable progress in addressing weaknesses in its supply chain management.
This report addresses the extent to which DOD has (1) identified performance measures that allow it to monitor the progress of selected asset visibility initiatives identified in its Strategies; and (2) addressed the five criteria—leadership commitment, capacity, corrective action plan, monitoring, and demonstrated progress—for removing asset visibility from the High Risk List. GAO reviewed documents associated with selected initiatives, surveyed DOD officials, and observed demonstrations.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DOD use key attributes of successful performance measures in refining measures in updates to the Strategy and incorporate information related to performance measures into after-action reports for the asset visibility initiatives. DOD partially concurred with both recommendations. The actions DOD proposed are positive steps, but GAO believes the recommendations should be fully implemented, as discussed in the report.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In August 2017, DOD updated its 2015 Strategy and included additional guidance related to performance measures. Specifically, the 2017 Strategy listed and defined GAO's key attributes of successful performance measures and recommended that DOD components consider using these attributes during initiatives' metric development. By developing clear, quantifiable, objective, and reliable performance measures, DOD can better assess department-wide progress against the Strategies' goals and clarify what additional steps need to be taken to enable decision makers to exercise effective oversight.
Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness, in collaboration with the Director, Defense Logistics Agency; the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; the Commandant of the Marine Corps; the Commander of the United States Transportation Command; and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to use the key attributes of successful performance measures--including clarity, measurable target, objectivity, reliability, baseline and trend data, and linkage--in refining the performance measures in subsequent updates to the Strategy to improve DOD's efforts to monitor asset visibility initiatives.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: Since 2017, DOD has closed eight asset visibility initiatives. Of these eight initiatives, five incorporated performance measure information into the after-action reports. The remaining three initiatives did not include performance measure information into the after-action reports because they had been terminated. For example, one initiative had been terminated because many of the solutions being tested were duplicative and the Marine Corps decided to leverage existing capabilities. In addition to incorporating performance measure information into the after-action reports, the 2015 and 2017 Strategies included matrixes that link each of DOD's ongoing initiatives intended to implement the Strategy to the Strategy's overarching goals and objectives. By incorporating performance measure information into after-action reports when closing asset visibility initiatives and creating a clear link between the initiatives with the overarching goals and objectives in the Strategies, DOD is better positioned to assess the extent to which progress has been made toward achieving the intended outcomes of the individual initiatives and the overall goals and objectives of the Strategies.
Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness, in collaboration with the Director, Defense Logistics Agency; the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; the Commandant of the Marine Corps; the Commander of the United States Transportation Command; and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to incorporate into after-action reports information relating to performance measures for the asset visibility initiatives when evaluating and closing these initiatives to ensure that implemented initiatives will achieve the goals and objectives in the Strategies.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense