Operational Contract Support:

Actions Needed to Enhance Capabilities in the Pacific Region

GAO-17-428: Published: Jun 23, 2017. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2017.

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What GAO Found

U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) does not fully account for contractor personnel in a steady-state, or peacetime, environment and lacks a process to vet foreign vendors. Department of Defense (DOD) guidance requires the accounting of certain contractor personnel during contingency operations, but is unclear for steady-state environments. PACOM issued limited guidance in November 2016 to address accountability processes in contingency and steady-state environments, and PACOM and some of its components use multiple mechanisms to account for contractor personnel, resulting in inconsistencies in the numbers of contractor personnel accounted for, which could present difficulties in an emergency or contingency operation. Additionally, PACOM lacks a foreign vendor vetting process due to a lack of DOD guidance identifying what vendor vetting processes should be established at combatant commands. PACOM has taken some action on vendor vetting, such as including vetting in exercises and screening some contractor personnel, but it lacks a process that includes details, such as under what circumstances a vetting cell should be established. DOD guidance specifying under what circumstances a vetting cell should be established would better position PACOM to avoid contracting with the enemy in high-threat areas.

PACOM established an interim operational contract support (OCS) organizational structure through a pilot program that ends in June 2017. PACOM officials stated that, upon completion of the pilot, they intend to establish the structure as an enduring OCS capability within the command's logistics directorate. The intent is to provide the combatant command, subordinate unified commands, and service components a central entity to integrate OCS across joint functions, such as directorates dealing with personnel or intelligence. However, service component officials stated that PACOM's OCS organizational structure might have been more effective if it engaged all joint staff functions, including directorates beyond logistics. DOD, Joint Staff, and PACOM guidance identify the important role that directorates beyond logistics should play as stakeholders in OCS. Similarly, GAO has previously reported on the challenges DOD has faced integrating OCS in functional areas beyond logistics. By considering ways to expand its OCS organizational structure beyond the logistics directorate and better integrate the equities of other directorates, PACOM could be better positioned to build on the progress made during the pilot program.

PACOM has integrated OCS into key planning documents, as required by guidance, by developing OCS annexes for 6 of its 11 operational, concept, and campaign plans. Officials added that they will continue to update the remaining plans as planning cycles and resources allow. However, the annex appendixes generally lack key details, such as contractor management and support estimates. PACOM officials told GAO that such details are determined through requirements development at the service component commands, but challenges exist related to these issues due to unclear guidance. Without guidance that clarifies the requirements-development process for OCS annexes, PACOM will continue to lack important details that are needed to determine OCS requirements for operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

A key element of DOD military strategy since 2012 has been a rebalance of U.S. presence and capabilities toward the Asia-Pacific region, PACOM's area of responsibility. U.S. military personnel in this region rely on contracted services to provide support to military operations. PACOM's humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts in response to a May 2015 earthquake in Nepal highlighted the importance of OCS in the Asia-Pacific region.

GAO was asked to assess PACOM's processes to plan for, manage, and oversee contractors that support military operations in the Asia-Pacific region. This report assesses the extent to which PACOM (1) has accounted for contractor personnel and has a process to vet foreign vendors; (2) has established an organizational structure to manage and oversee OCS; and (3) has integrated OCS into key planning documents. GAO reviewed documents and data, interviewed relevant officials involved in OCS activities in the region, and analyzed OCS annexes to certain plans.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD and PACOM develop or update guidance related to contractor personnel accountability, vendor vetting, and OCS organizational structure; and that PACOM develop guidance that clarifies requirements development for plans. DOD concurred with two recommendations and partially concurred with four. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are valid, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation, but as of September 2020, has not yet taken steps to implement it. DOD stated that DOD Instruction 3020.41, Operational Contract Support, is being updated, and will include guidance on the types of contractor personnel that are to be accounted for. The department also stated it would update Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual 3150.13C, Joint Personnel Reporting Structure-Personnel Manual, to clarify the types of contractor personnel that are to be accounted for. As of September 2020, neither of these guidance documents had been updated. This recommendation will remain open.

    Recommendation: To enable the department to enhance its visibility over contractor personnel for whom it may become responsible in the event of contingency and other applicable operations, the Secretary of Defense should, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, update accountability guidance clarifying the types of contractor personnel that are to be accounted for in a steady-state environment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Indo-PACOM) has updated guidance and identified a system of record to consistently account for contractor personnel in its area of responsibility, as we recommended in June 2017 in our report, "OPERATIONAL CONTRACT SUPPORT: Actions Needed to Enhance Capabilities in the Pacific Region (GAO-17-428)." In that report, we found that Indo-PACOM did not fully account for contractor personnel in a steady-state, or peacetime, environment. Additionally, we found that Indo-PACOM and some of its components used multiple mechanisms to account for contractor personnel, resulting in inconsistencies in the numbers of contractor personnel accounted for, which could present difficulties in an emergency or contingency operation. We recommended that, in order to enable Indo-PACOM to consistently account for contractor personnel in its area of responsibility, the Secretary of Defense direct the Indo-PACOM Commander to clarify contractor personnel accountability guidance for the collection of all contractor personnel data in a steady-state environment and specify a system of record, such as the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT), for the collection of this information. DOD partially concurred with our recommendation and has taken steps to implement it.Specifically, in February 2018, Indo-PACOM issued Instruction 0601.7, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Operational Contract Support (OCS), which directs its manpower and personnel directorate to issue guidance to implement the use of SPOT to maintain contractor accountability, delineate authorized government services to contractors, and provide visibility of DOD contractors. The instruction also directs service component commands to provide reporting and analysis on DOD contractors contained in SPOT. Additionally, U.S. Forces-Japan has implemented SPOT to improve contractor personnel data collection and reporting. These actions, as well as DOD's formal response to our report and statements made by DOD officials in May 2019, demonstrate that DOD has implemented this recommendation; as such, we have closed the recommendation as implemented.

    Recommendation: To enable PACOM to consistently account for contractor personnel in its area of responsibility, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PACOM Commander to clarify contractor personnel accountability guidance for the collection of all contractor personnel data in a steady-state environment and specify a system of record, such as SPOT, for the collection of this information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with our recommendation but as of September 2020, has not implemented it. In its response to our report, DOD agreed that the development and issuance of overarching guidance and partially concurs with the development and issuance of guidance that clarifies the foreign vendor vetting steps or process that should be established at each combatant command, including operational conditions under which a foreign vendor vetting cell should be established. In April 2018, DOD issued Directive-Type Memorandum 18-002, Prohibition on Providing Funds to the Enemy and Authorization of Additional Access to Records. In August 2020, DOD officials said that they had drafted department-wide vendor vetting guidance (now known as vendor threat mitigation), but had not yet issued it. Since the guidance has not been issued, the recommendation will remain open at this time.

    Recommendation: To ensure that combatant commands are not contracting with entities that may be connected to or supporting prohibited organizations, the Secretary of Defense should, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, develop and issue guidance that clarifies the foreign-vendor vetting steps or process that should be established at each combatant command, including the operational conditions under which a foreign-vendor vetting cell should be established.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation, but as of September 2019, has not yet taken the steps necessary to implement it.. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure that PACOM is not contracting with entities that may be connected to or supporting prohibited organizations, while awaiting DOD guidance on vendor vetting, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PACOM commander to consider developing vendor vetting guidance as other combatant commands have done, to prepare for the event that PACOM becomes actively engaged in hostilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: U.S. Indo Pacific Command (Indo-PACOM)-previously known as U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM)-has updated guidance to integrate joint staff functions beyond the logistics directorate into operational contract support (OCS) organizational structure and the OCS Integration Cell, as we recommended in June 2017 in our report, "OPERATIONAL CONTRACT SUPPORT: Actions Needed to Enhance Capabilities in the Pacific Region (GAO-17-428)." In that report, we found that Indo-PACOM established an interim OCS organizational structure in a pilot program that ended in June 2017 and officials stated that upon completion of the pilot, the command intended to establish an enduring OCS capability within the logistics directorate. However, service component officials stated that PACOM's OCS organizational structure might have been more effective if it engaged all joint staff functions, including directorates beyond logistics. We recommended that, to enable OCS to be fully embedded in the command structure and continue to build upon the progress of integrating OCS into the command, as PACOM updates OCS guidance, the Secretary of Defense direct the PACOM Commander to consider ways to ensure all joint staff functions beyond the logistics area are fully integrated into its OCS organizational structure and OCS Integration Cell. DOD partially concurred with our recommendation and has taken steps to implement it. Specifically, in February 2018, Indo-PACOM issued Instruction 0601.7, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Operational Contract Support (OCS), which identifies OCS responsibilities for all joint staff functions at the command. For example, the instruction directs the personnel directorate to issue guidance on implementing systems for maintaining contractor accountability and provide visibility of DOD contractors. The instruction also directs the intelligence directorate to support the operations and logistics directorates to develop priority intelligence requirements related to OCS. Additionally, the instruction directs the planning and policy directorate to issue guidance to ensure OCS is integrated and documented in plans and orders, and to identify OCS objectives, effects and limitations that the use of contracted support may impact. These actions demonstrate that DOD has met the intent of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable OCS to be fully embedded in the command structure at the command and continue to build upon the progress of integrating OCS into the command, as PACOM updates OCS guidance, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PACOM Commander to consider ways to ensure all joint staff functions beyond the logistics area are fully integrated into its OCS organizational structure and OCS Integration Cell.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: U.S. Indo Pacific Command (Indo-PACOM) has updated guidance and implemented a process support tool for operational contract support (OCS) requirements development, as we recommended in June 2017 in our report, "OPERATIONAL CONTRACT SUPPORT: Actions Needed to Enhance Capabilities in the Pacific Region (GAO-17-428)." In that report, we found that OCS annexes to planning documents-known as Annex Ws-generally lacked key details, such as contractor management and support estimates, which are determined through the requirements development process at the service components commands; but that challenges exist related to these issues due to unclear guidance. We recommended that, in order to enable Indo-PACOM to better identify OCS requirements and incorporate those requirements into Annex Ws and their appendices, the Secretary of Defense direct the Indo-PACOM Commander to develop guidance that clarifies the roles and responsibilities and the process that should be followed for OCS requirements development. DOD partially concurred with our recommendation and has taken steps to implement it. Specifically, in February 2018, Indo-PACOM issued Instruction 0601.7, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Operational Contract Support (OCS), which directs the Indo-PACOM logistics directorate to develop and issue OCS plans and guidance, including Annex Ws, in coordination with other directorates and staff. The instruction also directs Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office planners from Defense Logistics Agency to support the command's preparation of plans by coordinating Annex Ws and collecting, analyzing, and disseminating requirements information. Moreover, the instruction identifies requirements development as a key aspect of OCS planning. Additionally, Indo-PACOM implemented a classified requirements development support tool to improve guidance and execution of OCS capability in its area of responsibility. These actions, as well as DOD's formal response to our report and statements made by DOD officials in May 2019, demonstrate that DOD has implemented this recommendation; therefore, we have closed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable PACOM to better identify OCS requirements and incorporate those requirements into Annex Ws and their appendixes, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PACOM Commander to develop guidance that clarifies roles and responsibilities and the process that should be followed for OCS requirements development.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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