Defense Management:

DOD Needs to Address Inefficiencies and Implement Reform across Its Defense Agencies and DOD Field Activities

GAO-18-592: Published: Sep 6, 2018. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 2018.

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fielde1@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) does not comprehensively or routinely assess the continuing need for its defense agencies and DOD field activities (DAFAs). DOD was statutorily required to review the services and supplies each DAFA provides to ensure there is a continuing need for each and that the provision of services and supplies by each DAFA, rather than by the military departments, is more effective, economical, or efficient. A DOD directive requires the recording of the review. DOD previously issued biennial reports to Congress to record its review. Since 2012, DOD has relied on existing processes to fulfill the requirement; such as the annual budget process and the day-to-day management of the DAFAs. However, DOD did not provide sufficient evidence that these processes satisfy the statute. For example, while DOD reviews the DAFAs during the budget process, it does not specifically review the provision of services by the DAFAs rather than the military departments. Further, DOD does not have internal guidance that provides clear direction for conducting and recording its response to the statutory requirement. Without such guidance, DOD is limited in its ability to clearly define or target the scope of its reviews and any resulting reports. As such, DOD and congressional decision makers may not have reasonable assurance of a continuing need for the DAFAs, or that the provision of services and supplies is effective, economical, and efficient.

There is fragmentation and overlap within the DAFAs that provide human resources services to other defense agencies or organizations within DOD. At least six DOD organizations, including three DAFAs, perform human resources services for other parts of the department. One DAFA receives human resources services from all six organizations. This has resulted in negative effects, such as inconsistent performance information regarding hiring, fragmented information technology systems, and inefficiencies associated with overhead costs. For example, DOD officials stated that there are over 800 fragmented information technology systems used to store and record training records across the department, which are costly to maintain. DOD established a reform team to reduce inefficiencies within this business function. However, the team lacks comprehensive information on overhead costs that could guide reform and does not have time frames or deliverables for completing certain reform initiatives. With consistent human resource performance information, comprehensive information on overhead costs, and clear time frames in place, the team would be better positioned to thoroughly assess the department's system for human resources service delivery and develop and implement long-term solutions for better coordination or consolidation of this function.

DOD has taken some steps to monitor and evaluate the results of key efficiency initiatives that affect the DAFAs. However, DOD has not always established baselines or performed ongoing monitoring of its initiatives. Further, DOD has focused on whether steps have been taken, rather than outcomes achieved. For example, DOD did not evaluate whether a prior efficiency initiative called the Core Business Process Review achieved any of its intended savings or led to expected efficiencies. Without ensuring that efficiency initiatives are fully monitored and evaluated against established baselines over time, DOD lacks a systematic basis for evaluating whether its various initiatives have improved the efficiency or effectiveness of its programs or activities.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD spends billions of dollars annually to maintain business functions that support the warfighter. Many of these functions are performed by the DAFAs—DOD's 19 defense agencies and 8 field activities intended to provide department-wide consolidated support functions. GAO has previously identified instances of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication among the DAFAs.

Senate Report 115-125, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, included a provision that GAO review the DAFAs. This report evaluates the extent to which (1) DOD has assessed the continuing need for each DAFA; (2) any overlap or fragmentation among the DAFAs that provide human resources services has affected service delivery; and (3) DOD has monitored and evaluated the results of its efficiency initiatives that affect the DAFAs. GAO reviewed legal requirements, assessed prior DOD reports, and analyzed DOD's human resources activities and documentation tracking past efficiency initiatives.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making five recommendations, including for DOD to develop internal guidance to conduct and record its reviews of DAFAs; collect consistent performance information and comprehensive overhead cost information; establish time frames and deliverables for key reform efforts; and ensure routine and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of ongoing efficiency initiatives. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Chief Management Officer (CMO) develops internal guidance that defines the requirements and provides clear direction for conducting and recording reviews of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in response to 10 U.S.C. § 192(c). This guidance, which could be similar to the guidance that exists for assessments of the combat support agencies, should reflect the key elements of quality evaluations. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO, with input from the human resources management team, requires that all DOD human resources providers adopt consistent time-to-hire measures, as one process for assessing performance. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO, through the human resources management reform team, identifies time frames and deliverables for identifying and adopting optimal IT solutions for human resources and fully assessing, identifying, and implementing the most effective and efficient means of human resources service delivery. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO, through the human resources management reform team, collects information on the overhead costs charged by all DOD human resources service providers to assist in determining the most effective, economical, and efficient model of human resources service delivery within the department. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO routinely and comprehensively monitors and evaluates ongoing efficiency initiatives within the department, including those related to the reform teams. This monitoring should include establishing baselines from which to measure progress, periodically reviewing progress made, and evaluating results. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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