How Well Do the Military Services Perform Jointly in Combat? DOD Joint Test-and-Evaluation Program Provides Few Credible Answers

PEMD-84-3: Published: Feb 22, 1984. Publicly Released: Mar 22, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) joint test-and-evaluations (JT&E) program, which was established in 1971, to determine how well the military services can perform their missions and roles in joint operations under combat conditions.

GAO found that the office responsible for JT&E of DOD weapon systems has been dependent on organizations with vested interests in JT&E results. Joint tests have been managed, carried out, and partially funded by the individual services, which have vested interests in the results. It is not yet clear how new legislation will affect the organization of the program or alter JT&E dependence on the services for resources and capabilities. Most of the JT&E that have been completed were requested by organizations within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) while the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the services have been infrequent requesters of joint tests. In the three JT&E which GAO analyzed in depth, it found that: (1) factors important to judging operational effectiveness were omitted; (2) the validity of the test data could seriously be questioned; (3) the data were often not qualified with respect to the tests' constraints; (4) conclusions and recommendations were not always supported by test results; (5) the reports did not always address the concerns of the requesters; and (6) the requesters made little use of the tests. GAO believed that the reasons for the flaws of the joint tests could lie in the organizational structure of the program including: (1) its organizational placement; (2) its limited staff size; (3) failure to choose staff members for their testing expertise; (4) its limited budget; (5) its dependence on the services for resources; and (6) the absence of a strategic plan that sets priorities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that the need for these tests and the desire to get the results expeditiously was strongly voiced by all members of the Senior Advisory Council in March 1984. It is the position of DOD that this assessment corroborates the need for the joint test program and further special study is not required.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ascertain the need for joint tests that focus on the joint operations of the armed services. The JT&E program should be continued if the Secretary concludes that DOD has such a need.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and is implementing it. The JT&E manual is being updated, and DOD is examining the approach used by GAO to analyze the results of tests for inclusion of applicable elements in the manual. The House Armed Services Committee requested that GAO do a follow-up study to examine the quality and reporting of DOT&E, the independent office.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, if he determines that DOD needs the JT&E program, take the further steps that are necessary to: (1) ensure that priorities are established for conducting JT&E programs; (2) endow the JT&E program with enough independence, permanence of expert staff, and control of resources to allow the program to conduct and report on joint tests and evaluations that are high in quality and provide relevant information to their requesters and other users; and (3) require the JT&E program director to develop routine procedures that will ensure that thorough records of test data, test results, and their use are maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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