Force Structure:

Army Is Integrating Active and Reserve Combat Forces, but Challenges Remain

NSIAD-00-162: Published: Jul 18, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 2000.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Army's largest ongoing initiatives integrating active and reserve combat units, focusing on the effects of these efforts on the Army's: (1) total costs; (2) force structure; (3) personnel tempo; and (4) risk in carrying out the national military strategy.

GAO noted that: (1) integration adds to the Army's total costs; (2) due to their part-time status, reserve forces are less costly to maintain than their active counterparts, but integration raises the Army's total personnel costs when reservists deploy to peacekeeping missions and are paid for more than 39 days of service; (3) integration also increases transportation costs, as active or reserve forces travel to participate in integrated training; (4) since the Army is implementing integration in a piecemeal fashion, it has not collected comprehensive figures to measure the cost of integration, has not established cost goals, and has not determined what cost increases would be acceptable to achieve a totally integrated force; (5) integration creates new force structure requirements, as new units are established and the numbers of positions within existing units increase; (6) these new requirements have been small, and the Army has reduced requirements in other areas to compensate for these new requirements; (7) however, as integration and the roles of the reserves increase, new requirements could grow significantly, and the Army would have to make major force structure adjustments to maintain its authorized force structure level; (8) none of the Army's integration plans discuss the current operational environment, in which the Army is short on the forces it needs to conduct two major theater wars, while its personnel level remains constant; (9) nor do these plans set forth evaluation strategies that would enable the Army to assess whether reserve forces are properly structured to carry out new roles; (10) integration generally increases the time personnel must spend away from home; (11) as deployment requirements shift, some active forces spend less time away from home, while reservists spend more time deployed away from home; (12) the Army has yet to assess fully the effects of integration on the time personnel spend away from home or on retention; (13) integration could reduce the Army's risk in executing the national military strategy in the long term by increasing the training and readiness levels of both active and reserve forces; (14) however, National Guard wartime support to active forces may not be as strong as expected; (15) without clearly established goals for its overall integration efforts, the Army will have difficulty measuring progress toward its objective of a fully integrated force; and (16) integration initiatives may even run counter to other major Army objectives such as ensuring that first-to-fight combat divisions are filled with qualified personnel (such as medics).

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: At the time of report issuance, both DOD and the Army disagreed with the recommendation, believing existing policies were sufficient to guide Army integration efforts. However, recently the Secretary of Defense, in a July 9, 2003 memo regarding "Rebalancing Forces," called on the services to reassess current policies and to prepare new plans with actions they intend to implement. This memo follows publication of a study directed by the Secretary of Defense's 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, "Review of Reserve Component Contributions to National Defense," which addressed actions needed to transform the reserve components. Many of these actions fit under the overarching theme "Expanding Force Capability Through Rebalancing." DOD's study makes reference to initiatives that were part of the Army integration effort, but in DOD's view, need to be implemented more broadly today. In responding to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, in a July 31, 2003 memorandum, acknowledged "an imbalance of capabilities" between Active and Reserve Components. Furthermore, he said he "shares the Secretary of Defense's urgency in effecting the necessary changes in support of that objective. He pledged to "accelerate the adjustment in the mix of forces and to undertake other initiatives" to increase the Army's utilization of the Reserve Components in response to the Secretary of Defense letter July 9, 2003. Furthermore, the Army plans to submit details of its programs and proposals to achieve specific actions, for the Secretary's review. GAO believes the Army is taking a significant new step, consistent with GAO's recommendation, in the direction of creating a more overarching policy that meets the requirements of the Secretary of Defense's memorandum and study. With oversight from the Secretary of Defense, GAO believes these newly revised policies will more likely succeed than the previous policies which left many issues open and undefined and progress difficult to measure.

    Recommendation: Given the Army's current emphasis on active and reserve integration as a means of maximizing the effectiveness of its total force, and given the inherent limitations of pursuing integration on a piecemeal basis, the Secretary of the Army should develop an overarching plan to guide the Army's integration efforts. This plan should establish the Army's strategy, goals, policies, and resources for achieving full integration and should include milestones and performance measures for gauging progress. Further, it should fully consider how the integration of active and reserve forces can be achieved consistent with the Army's other primary objectives, including the full staffing of its combat forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Following issuance of our report, Major General Soriano, whom GAO met with during its review, invited the U.S. Army Audit Agency to conduct a detailed analysis of "barrier issues" that could effect readiness of his division. The resulting Army Audit Agency consulting study, issued in June 2001, discussed barriers to integration in seven areas, including forces, equipment, and training. In response, the command coordinated with the states and initiated actions to resolve issues in each of these areas. For example, the command agreed to examine whether full time support positions have been validated for each of its enhanced brigades since introduction on the integrated division initiative, and to work with the National Guard Bureau and the States to ensure this validation is based on the specific missions currently under development. The Commanding General, 7th Infantry Division, has submitted the Army Audit Agency study to U.S. Army Forces Command to serve as a vehicle for initiating changes that need to be made at many levels to continue the integration effort successfully. In response, U.S. Army Forces Command has initiated action to review and update the memorandum of agreement for integrated divisions. In two reports, GAO has commented on challenges faced by reserve forces due to equipment modernization and compatibility issues. In a study directed by the Secretary of Defense's 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, DOD acknowledges this issue and makes a key recommendation to resolve "constraints and imbalances" relating to equipment. In our FY00 report, NSIAD-00-162, in light of the Army National Guard's increased responsibility in peacekeeping operations and the Army's desire to reduce deployment burdens on the Active forces by substituting reservists, GAO recommended that the Secretary of the Army examine whether the forces, equipment, and training priorities assigned to the National Guard are commensurate with its increased role, and make whatever adjustment are needed, considering the overall needs of the Army. Also, in NSIAD-00-201, we noted that Air Force reserve officials were challenged to better match the reserves' aircraft capabilities with their increased role in contingency operations. For example, theater commanders often request the capability to launch precision-guided munitions, yet only 25% of the Guard and Reserve F-16 squadrons are currently capable of performing this mission. GAO recommended that the Air Force monitor factors critical to reserve participation in the Expeditionary Aerospace Forces, including the extent to which the reserves can meet theater commanders' requirements for certain high-demand capabilities, such as aircraft that can deliver precision-guided munitions. Consistent with our recommendations, DOD's December 20, 2002, review recommends that the Department "upgrade older, less capable equipment in reserve units to improve interoperability, address platform shortages, and ease operational burdens. Targeted modernization will increase the capability of Reserve component forces and will allow them to more fully participate in contingency operations." This recommendation was made to specifically address platform-based shortages and the overarching issue that demands on the military are creating constraints and imbalances in force capabilities that can lead to shortages in some areas.

    Recommendation: In light of the Army National Guard's increased responsibility in peacekeeping operations and the Army's desire to reduce deployment burdens on active forces by substituting reservists, the Secretary of the Army should examine whether the forces, equipment, and training priorities assigned to the National Guard are commensurate with its increased role and make whatever adjustments are needed, considering the overall needs of the Army.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSD officials responded positively to this recommendation. In December 2000, DOD initiated a study to assess the current status of how Reserve members are brought onto military duty to perform training, support missions, and reduce active duty personnel tempo. Using the assessment as a baseline, DOD will determine appropriate compensation, entitlements, benefits and protection associated with each duty status.

    Recommendation: Because some reservists are incurring significant increases in their transportation costs as they integrate with active forces located farther from their homes, the Secretary of Defense should determine whether the benefits of Army active/reserve component integration warrant a change in current travel regulations that prohibit travel reimbursement related to inactive duty training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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