Peace Operations:

Heavy Use of Key Capabilities May Affect Response to Regional Conflicts

NSIAD-95-51: Published: Mar 8, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the impact of peace operations on the U.S. military forces' capability to respond to regional conflicts, focusing on the: (1) force structure limitations that affect the military's ability to respond to other national security requirements while engaged in peace operations; and (2) options available for increasing force flexibility and response capability.

GAO found that: (1) peace operations have heavily stressed some U.S. military capabilities, including Army support forces and specialized Air Force aircraft; (2) because there are relatively few support forces in the military's active force, some of these units and personnel have been deployed to consecutive operations, the tempo of operations has increased, and the time available to prepare for combat missions has been reduced; (3) extended participation in multiple or large scale peace operations could impede the services' ability to timely respond to major regional conflicts (MRC); (4) disengaging support units and specialized aircraft from a peace operation and redeploying them to MRC could be more difficult than estimated because some of these units need training and supplies before deploying to another major operation; (5) the options available to DOD to meet the demands of peace operations while maintaining the capability to respond to MRC include changing the mix of active and reserve forces and making greater use of reserves and contractors; and (6) the United States needs to determine the resources it needs and degree of risk it is prepared to take if it wishes to continue participating in sizeable peace operations for extended periods and still maintain the capability needed to rapidly respond to simultaneous MRC.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 1996 Defense Authorization Act directed the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House National Security Committee by September 30, 1996, that identifies the number of high-priority support units within the armed services that would deploy early in a contingency operation or other crisis and that are managed at less than 100 percent of their authorized strengths. The act also requires that the report include a justification for manning of less than 100 percent, or the status of corrective action. DOD has completed this report and provided it to the Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, as part of the Total Army Analysis 2003, to reexamine whether high priority support units that would deploy early in a crisis should still be staffed at less than 100 percent of their authorized strength.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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