Military Readiness:

DOD Has Not Yet Incorporated Leading Practices of a Strategic Management Planning Framework in Retrograde and Reset Guidance

GAO-18-621R: Published: Aug 10, 2018. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 2018.

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Cary B. Russell
(202) 512-5431
russellc@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has not established a strategic policy for the retrograde and reset of equipment during contingency operations that incorporates key elements of leading practices for sound strategic management planning. Because DOD and the military services do not separately track the "reconstitution" of units, which includes personnel and training costs, the focus of GAO's report is on the retrograde and reset of equipment. According to DOD's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, "retrograde" refers to the process for the movement of nonunit equipment and materiel from a forward location to a reset program or to another directed area of operations. "Reset" refers to a set of actions to restore equipment to a desired level of combat capability commensurate with a unit's future mission. GAO found that there was no consensus among the officials we spoke with regarding which organization should lead the effort to develop a DOD-wide policy. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for DOD to develop a strategic policy for retrograde and reset that incorporates key elements of strategic management planning is valid.

Although the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) has provided definitions of terms for the services to use in reporting the cost of contingency operations, DOD has not ensured that the services use consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in policy and guidance. Although DOD updated the relevant chapter of the Financial Management Regulation in December 2017 to include definitions of "reset" and "retrograde," GAO found that the terms retrograde and reset are not used consistently by the department and the services. As a result, GAO believes that to fully meet the intent of its May 2016 recommendation DOD needs to take action to ensure that these terms are uniformly defined and consistently used throughout the services.

The Marine Corps has been implementing its plan for the retrograde and reset of its equipment, but the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have no immediate plans to develop reset plans. Marine Corps officials reported that the implementation of reset activities for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is 99-percent complete and will be completed in May 2019. Navy and Air Force officials cited the need for a DOD-wide policy before they can establish service-specific plans. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to develop service-specific implementation plans for retrograde and reset is valid. Furthermore, GAO continues to believe that DOD needs to establish a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning to guide and inform the services' plans, as previously discussed.

Why GAO Did This Study

Section 324 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 required DOD to establish a policy regarding the retrograde, reconstitution, and replacement of units and materiel used to support overseas contingency operations and to submit a plan for implementation of the policy within 90 days of the enactment of the NDAA. It also required DOD to submit annual updates (for the next 3 years) to congressional defense committees on its progress toward meeting the goals of the plan. The act included a provision for GAO to review and report on DOD's policy, implementation plan, and annual updates.

For this report on DOD's third and final annual update, GAO evaluated the extent to which DOD has addressed GAO's May 2016 recommendations. Specifically, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) DOD has established a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of equipment that supports overseas contingency operations, (2) DOD has developed and required the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in relevant policy and other guidance, and (3) each of the military services has developed and implemented a service-specific plan consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset that supports overseas contingency operations.

To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD reports, interviewed officials, and reviewed/assessed agency provided documents.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making recommendations. 

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

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