Military Readiness:

Observations on Personnel Readiness in Later Deploying Army Divisions

T-NSIAD-98-126: Published: Mar 20, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1998.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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GAO discussed its preliminary findings from its ongoing evaluation of personnel readiness in the Army's five later-deploying divisions, focusing on the: (1) extent of personnel shortages in the divisions and the extent to which these shortages are reflected in readiness reports; (2) key factors contributing to personnel shortages and the impact such shortages have on readiness; (3) Army's plans for correcting such shortages should these divisions be called upon to deploy; and (4) issues to be considered in dealing with personnel shortages.

GAO noted that: (1) in the aggregate, the Army's five later-deploying divisions had an average of 93 percent of their personnel on board at the time of GAO's visits; (2) however, aggregate data does not fully reflect the extent of shortages of combat troops, technical specialists, experienced officers, and noncommissioned officers (NCO) that exist in those divisions; (3) the readiness reporting system that contains the aggregate data on these divisions does not fully disclose the impact of personnel shortages on the ability of the divisions' units to accomplish critical wartime tasks; (4) as a result, there is a disconnect between the reported readiness of these forces in formal readiness reports and the actual readiness that GAO observed on its visits; (5) these disconnects exist because the unit readiness reporting system does not consider some information that has a significant impact on a unit's readiness, such as operating tempo, personnel shortfalls in key positions, and crew and squad staffing; (6) the Army's priority in assigning personnel to these divisions, Army-wide shortages of personnel, frequent deployments to peacekeeping missions, and the assignment of soldiers to other tasks outside of their specialty are the primary reasons for personnel shortfalls; (7) the impact of personnel shortages on training and readiness is exacerbated by the extent to which personnel are being used for work outside their specialties or units; (8) according to commanders in all the divisions, the collective impact of understaffing squads and crews, transferring to other jobs the NCOs from their crews and squads they are responsible for training, and assigning personnel to other units as fillers for exercises and operations have degraded their capability and readiness; (9) if the Army had to deploy these divisions for a high-intensity conflict, these divisions would fill their units with Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers, retired servicemembers, and newly recruited soldiers; (10) however, the Army's plan for providing these personnel includes assumptions that have not been validated, and there may not be enough trained personnel to fully staff or fill later-deploying divisions within their scheduled deployment times; and (11) solutions, if any, will depend upon how the Army plans to use these divisions in the future.

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