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

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

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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.

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