Military Operations:

Impact of Operations Other Than War on the Services Varies

NSIAD-99-69: Published: May 24, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the impact of operations other than war (OOTW) on the military services, focusing on the: (1) impact of OOTW on the warfighting capability of each of the services, including the time to recover warfighting skills; (2) extent to which reporting systems fully capture the impacts; (3) available information on the effect of OOTW on morale and retention; (4) ability of U.S. forces to respond to a major theater war while engaged in OOTW; (5) Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to alleviate any adverse impacts; and (6) funding provided by Congress for OOTW.

GAO noted that: (1) U.S. military forces have become increasingly involved in OOTW over the past decade; (2) based on GAO's review of unit readiness and capability assessments and observations confirmed at military headquarters such as the U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and the Air Force's Air Combat Command in the United States, OOTW has adversely affected the combat capability of deployed units in Bosnia and Southwest Asia and some units that remain at home station as they have to pick up the work of the deployed units; (3) deployments for these operations can have some positive affects, such as fostering unit cohesion; (4) OOTW has affected Army and Air Force units more than it has Navy and Marine Corps units; (5) returning units to their wartime mission capability levels during peacetime can take from several weeks for some support units to more than a year for some combat units, although in wartime the recovery period can be compressed if necessary; (6) many units and personnel in the Army and Air Force have been relatively unaffected by OOTW; (7) while the services are reporting some adverse impacts of OOTW and impacts are regularly reported to senior-level DOD readiness forums, GAO found that there is considerable additional information on OOTW impacts that are not readily apparent in readiness reports; (8) Army morale studies indicate that morale was generally high among soldiers in Bosnia, but Air Force personnel indicate that morale is declining partly due to recurring OOTW deployments; (9) Navy and Marine Corps personnel said that retention is an indicator of morale; (10) retention is a problem in some of the services, but according to the services OOTW is only one of several factors affecting retention; (11) in the 1993 Bottom-up Review and the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review of national military strategy and associated force structure, DOD concluded that the same forces needed for war would be used for OOTW until they were needed to meet wartime requirements; (12) addressing the impacts of OOTW while maintaining the ability to engage in major theater wars will present a complex management challenge for DOD; (13) the Joint Staff and the military services are taking steps to reduce the impact of OOTW, but either there is insufficient data available to know if the steps are achieving their intended objectives or the steps are too new to assess; and (14) if Congress and the executive branch conclude that the effects of OOTW are unacceptable, other than reducing U.S. participation, it may be necessary to include OOTW needs in determining future force structure.

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