Army National Guard:

Enhanced Brigade Readiness Improved but Personnel and Workload Are Problems

NSIAD-00-114: Published: Jun 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the readiness of the Army National Guard's Enhanced Brigades, focusing on: (1) whether the brigades are meeting training and personnel readiness goals; (2) the key reasons for any continuing difficulties in meeting these goals; and (3) whether the Army has an effective system for assessing brigade readiness and the time required for the brigades to be ready for war.

GAO noted that: (1) the brigades continue to have difficulty meeting training and personnel readiness goals; (2) only 3 of the 15 brigades reported that their platoons met training goals for certain mission-essential maneuver tasks and only 10 of the 24 mechanized battalions met gunnery standards; (3) on a more positive note, individual training has improved significantly; (4) since 1993-1994, completion rates for job training for all soldiers, and required and recommended leadership courses for officers and sergeants have improved by between 10-15 percentage points; (5) the key reasons for the brigades' continuing difficulties in meeting the readiness goals are: (a) personnel shortages; and (b) too much to do in the time available; (6) authorizations for full time support personnel, who help prepare training exercises and operate the brigades between weekend drills, have been cut from 90-100 percent in the early 1990s to 55-64 percent; (7) officials told GAO that the brigades continue to have difficulty recruiting and retaining enough personnel to meet staffing goals due to the strong economy, less desire to join the military, high personnel attrition, and other problems; (8) at the same time, war plans and training guidance do little to focus or prioritize the broad and growing range of missions the brigades must be ready to perform; (9) consequently, the brigades find it difficult to narrow training to a predictable and realistic set of skills for the time available; (10) the Army does not have an effective system for assessing brigade readiness; (11) the current system relies primarily on the subjective view of commanders and does not require the use of objective criteria or established training goals in reporting unit readiness; (12) as a result, brigade estimates--that they would need 42 days or less of training to be ready for war once called to active duty--are unrealistically low; (13) experiences during the Gulf War and a 1996 study by the RAND Corporation indicate that 70-80 days would be needed to prepare the brigades for deployment; (14) some brigade officials told GAO that they feel pressured to report they can be ready with 42 or less days of training to avoid low readiness ratings; (15) accurate assessments of readiness are further confused by inconsistencies between training guidance and actual war plans; (16) training guidance calls for the brigades to be trained and ready to deploy 90 days after they are called to active duty; and (17) however, war plans give some brigades considerably more time to be trained and moved to the war zones.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation, and stated that the Army Chief of Staff's Army Transformation Plan establishes timelines to ensure that all Army units are missioned to meet the National Military Strategy and Defense Planning Guidance. In addition, it stated that training doctrine for mission essential task list development emphasizes that reserve component units must concentrate their limited training time on the most critical tasks. Finally, DOD also stated that the Army is working with the Army National Guard to determine the best utilization of the Enhanced Separate Brigades. These actions generally take into consideration the need to better focus the missions and the training of the Enhanced Brigades, but do not actually change their mission to a more realistic scope or provide a mandatory list of core tasks for training.

    Recommendation: To improve training and assessments of the Enhanced Brigades' readiness for military missions, the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with National Guard leaders, should assess different ways of assigning missions to the brigades, including the option of assigning individual brigades parts of the overall set of missions on a rotating basis, and define a mandatory core list of tasks and focused training goals for each assigned mission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army revised Army Regulation 220-1, effective December 1, 2001, to require National Guard and other commanders to assess training readiness using the lower of (1) the number of days required to train to full proficiency in their mission-essential tasks, or (2) the percentage of their mission-essential task list for which unit personnel are trained. The Regulation states that the purpose of this change was to assist the unit commander to more accurately and objectively assess his/her unit's current training status against wartime requirements. The use of the percentage of mission-essential tasks trained should provide improved objectivity in training assessments, thus meeting the intent of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve training and assessments of the Enhanced Brigades' readiness for military missions, the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with National Guard leaders, should establish objective criteria for assessing training readiness, and use war plan requirements to set goals for the amount of time the brigades have to be ready for war.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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