Military Readiness:

Reports to Congress Provide Few Details on Deficiencies and Solutions

NSIAD-98-68: Published: Mar 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 1998.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to improve its readiness assessment and reporting process, focusing on whether: (1) DOD plans to make improvements to its unit readiness database, including adding specific readiness indicators; (2) a monthly review process instituted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff has improved DOD's ability to assess readiness; and (3) DOD's quarterly readiness reports to Congress accurately reflect readiness information briefed to senior DOD officials and provide information needed for oversight of military readiness.

GAO noted that: (1) over the last few years, DOD has, on the whole, taken action to improve its readiness assessment system; (2) these improvements include technical enhancements to the unit readiness system as well as the establishment of formal DOD-wide forums for evaluating current readiness at the joint and strategic levels; (3) GAO believes these changes represent progress, however, limitations to DOD's unit readiness systems remain and may be reflected in DOD's readiness assessments; (4) additionally, DOD's quarterly reports to Congress provide only a vague description of readiness problems and remedial actions; consequently, they are not effective as a congressional oversight tool; (5) both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the services have initiated various efforts to improve the technical aspects on the Status of Resources Training System; (6) however, these efforts will not address other known system limitations; (7) further, the Joint Chiefs of Staff currently does not plan to add indicators to the system that were identified by a 1994 DOD-funded study as having potential value for monitoring readiness; (8) the 1994 study did not recommend that the indicators be added to the unit readiness database, and Joint Chiefs of Staff officials said some of the unit indicators were not appropriate for inclusion in this database because they measure the readiness of forces at an aggregate level; (9) DOD recently issued an implementation plan for responding to the new requirements to include additional readiness indicators in the quarterly readiness reports to Congress; (10) the Joint Monthly Readiness Review has added a new dimension to DOD's capability to assess readiness because it goes beyond the traditional unit perspective that was previously the focus of the readiness assessment system; (11) the review also has expanded DOD's readiness assessment capability by following a recurring cycle, adding a joint perspective, incorporating wartime scenarios, and tracking and addressing deficiencies; (12) this review process, however, depends heavily on the judgment of military commanders; (13) DOD's quarterly readiness reports do not fulfill the legislative reporting requirements under 10 U.S.C. 482 because they lack specific detail on deficiencies and remedial actions; (14) as a result, these reports do not provide information needed for effective oversight of military readiness; (15) these reports accurately reflect information from briefings to the Senior Readiness Oversight Council and present a highly aggregated view of readiness; and (16) they are not intended to and do not highlight problems at the individual combatant command or unit level.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. In his 60-day response letter dated May 27, 1998, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness wrote that DOD agreed with GAO's recommendation and could provide more specifics on readiness concerns and remedial actions. The Secretary added that DOD had already made changes in their readiness reporting process. The Senior Readiness Oversight Council had focused attention on recruiting and retention, O&M readiness funding, personnel tempo, and aviation readiness. The readiness implications of these issues are being addressed in the Quarterly Readiness Reports to Congress. Further, DOD's plan is to substantially increase the amount of readiness data available to Congress, which will provide an unprecedented level of detail on readiness status and key indicator trends.

    Recommendation: To enhance the effectiveness of the quarterly readiness report as a congressional oversight tool, the Secretary of Defense should take steps to better fulfill the legislative reporting requirements under 10 U.S.C. 482 by providing: (1) supporting data on key readiness deficiencies; and (2) specific information on planned remedial actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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