Management of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Exercise Program Has Been Strengthened, But More Needs To Be Done

NSIAD-85-46: Published: Mar 5, 1985. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1985.

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GAO assessed the current management of the Department of Defense (DOD) joint exercise program to determine the effect of actions taken since a 1979 report and whether opportunities exist for further improvements.

GAO found that corrective actions taken have strengthened the exercise program and its management. The objectives of the program and the procedures for its development are now more clearly defined as a result of revised Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) guidance. In addition, congressional action to transfer program funding from the individual services to JCS has improved program budget development and control. However, GAO found that JCS procedures to define the scope and composition of the exercises were not being followed. In addition, exercise schedules which unified commands prepared for JCS did not include the necessary detailed information, and neither did the commands' analyses and assessments, which often provided only general discussion with limited coverage of the topics required by JCS. Further, program budgets were overestimated because airlift requirements were overstated for 34 of the 45 exercises for which airlift funds were requested in fiscal year 1983. As a result, about $67.5 million was reprogrammed and spent for unbudgeted program costs. In addition, because of many schedule modifications, the executed program was significantly different than the program approved by the executive branch and Congress. Finally, in response to a GAO recommendation, JCS, the Army, and the Air Force have developed systems to identify, assign responsiblity for, and ensure action on exercise problems. However, since these systems were developed independently, they are not providing maximum benefit.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: JCS took action to ensure better compliance with its guidance, including the formation of a working group of key military representatives to monitor exercise scheduling, limits, and scope. DOD agreed to stress the need for adequate exercise analysis and reporting.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct JCS and the unified commands to adhere more stringently to JCS guidance concerning: (1) timely submission of exercise requirements; and (2) preparation of more informative command analyses and assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD developed new procedures which will consider transportation efficiencies and result in improved exercise schedules and airlift budgets. These procedures should also reduce the number of schedule changes after exercise budget approval.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct JCS to develop procedures that will ensure more precise exercise program schedules and budgets and will reduce to a minimum the number of changes to the schedule that occur after budget approval. These procedures, if properly implemented, should consider transportation efficiencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: JCS implemented a universal lessons-learned system. When fully operational in late 1987, it will allow all services to share reported lessons learned.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct JCS to take the lead in establishing a comprehensive exercise results system that includes all major JCS exercise program results. Such a system would allow JCS and other defense organizations to account for, act on, and share the results throughout the defense community.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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