Reserves' Reported Facilities Backlog Now Exceeds $2 Billion; Acquisition Planning Questioned

LCD-80-45: Published: May 19, 1980. Publicly Released: May 20, 1980.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In 1970, Defense Reserve components reported a $1.2 billion backlog of facility needs. Between fiscal years 1970 and 1979, Congress provided over $1 billion to meet these needs. As a result of the increasing demand for facilities, a review was undertaken on the feasibility of Reserve Forces sharing or solely using regular force facilities which are either vacant or underused. The Department of Defense (DOD) has instructed the Reserve Forces to use the most cost-effective method when acquiring new facilities or expanding, repairing, and replacing existing facilities. The construction approval process by DOD starts each year with the Reserve units and programming offices of the Reserves' intermediate headquarters identifying facility deficiencies. Lists of construction projects needed to correct the deficiencies are forwarded through command channels. Eventually, each Reserve component includes all known requirements into a long-range program (backlog program). On the basis of the supporting documents submitted with the projects and minutes of the State board meetings, the Assistant Secretary of Defense or his designee approves or disapproves the projects included in each Reserve component's annual program. DOD has a single individual overseeing the entire Reserve construction program and seldom disapproves projects programmed by the Reserves. Congress then authorizes and appropriates funds for Reserves' facility construction in lump-sum amounts. However, Congress is furnished advance notification concerning the location, nature, and estimated cost of specific projects to be undertaken within the authorized amount provided for each Reserve component when the projects' estimated cost exceeds $175,000.

Of the backlog construction projects reviewed, approximately 38 percent were invalid. Additionally, other projects were questionable because the construction would correct deficiencies that have little, if any, impact on Reserve unit readiness. Although DOD has recently established State Reserve Force facility boards to assist in reviewing Reserve construction projects, the boards, as presently constituted, are ineffective. The members, who are part time, are responsible for providing objective recommendations to DOD. But in the five States visited, they most often perceived their roles as representing the interests and supporting the project recommendations of their respective components. Additionally, the procedural changes enacted by DOD to improve performance of the State boards have not ensured that the boards will objectively consider all viable alternatives in their analysis. Thus, unless DOD improves its review procedures for Reserve construction projects, not only will it fail to provide the information Congress needs to make sound decisions on authorization and appropriation requests for Reserve facilities, but it will also decrease the likelihood that facility needs will be met in the most cost-effective manner.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should: (1) ensure that future backlog data reported to Congress identifies that portion that has not been validated and could not be constructed even if Congress appropriated the funds; (2) revise review procedures to effectively identify invalid and questionable projects before submitting them to Congress; (3) reevaluate invalid and other questionable projects and take appropriate action; (4) enhance the effectiveness of the State boards by adding one additional member to each board who would report to the DOD office responsible for approving Reserve facility projects; (5) assign Reserve component facility program officials the task of identifying and presenting to State boards the most economical methods to meet specific facility requirements and hold these officials accountable for their decisions; (6) direct programming agencies to use underused and vacant military facilities to the maximum extent possible; (7) direct programming agencies to exchange information on the use of their Reserve facilities; (8) adopt formal policies to encourage colocating Reserve and Active Force units and sharing facilities to the extent feasible; (9) direct the state Boards to consider whether those Reserve components requesting new or expanded facilities could use augmentation or associate program concepts and thereby reduce their facility requirements; (10) direct military services to address, in their impact statements on the disposal of excess property, the feasibility of satisfying outstanding Reserve requirements within a 25-mile radius; (11) clarify and/or expand the State boards' responsibilities to identify opportunities for building consolidated facilities; (12) consider consolidation of each military department's Reserve construction appropriation; and (13) impose a moratorium on the construction of armory and Reserve facilities within 25 miles of completed unilaterally constructed armory and Reserve facilities. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense should direct the military departments to issue policy guidance on programming construction projects to emphasize that facility requirements are justified on need rather than what is authorized by published criteria.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 11, 2018

Oct 10, 2018

Oct 9, 2018

Sep 24, 2018

Sep 20, 2018

Sep 10, 2018

Sep 6, 2018

Sep 5, 2018

Sep 4, 2018

Looking for more? Browse all our products here