Measures of Military Capability:

A Discussion of Their Merits, Limitations, and Interrelationships

NSIAD-85-75: Published: Jun 13, 1985. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated current measures used by the Department of Defense (DOD) to report military capabilities, focusing on: (1) formal and informal measures of force structure, modernization, readiness, and sustainability; and (2) merits and limitations of those measures.

GAO found that, while DOD believes that military capabilities have improved significantly after 5 years of defense budget growth, changes in military capabilities are difficult to quantify. While many indicators are available to assess specific elements of military capability, no single indicator exists to describe overall capability. DOD infers military capability from various measures relating to combat readiness, sustainability, modernization, and force structure. GAO also found that: (1) appropriations that directly affect one component of military capability frequently have an impact on other components; (2) the Unit Status and Identity Report, which is the primary system for reporting unit level readiness, is an internal management tool that compares the number and types of personnel and materiel on hand against wartime requirements; and (3) the Force Readiness Report, which is submitted to Congress in support of executive branch budget requests, is the most comprehensive indicator of current force readiness. In addition, GAO suggested that DOD: (1) document the linkage between resources requested and benefits expected from those resources; (2) improve the Force Readiness Report to provide a clearer indication of current readiness and continuing trends; (3) incorporate into the Force Readiness Report a perspective on theater readiness; (4) benchmark reported readiness status against wartime requirements or applicable peacetime goals; and (5) project benefits resulting from increased training, including benefits related to support capabilities.

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