Skip to Highlights

What GAO Found

Over the past decade GAO has completed a number of reviews evaluating Army force structure, ranging from the service's multi-billion dollar modular force transformation initiated in 2004 to the recently approved Army Aviation Restructuring Initiative, a multi-year undertaking that would reduce the size of the Army's aviation force and rebalance its capabilities by removing all AH-64 attack helicopters (Apaches) from the Army National Guard. GAO's April 2015 report reviewed the Army's analyses of two competing aviation force structure proposals. GAO found the analyses enabled the Army to compare the force-structure proposals with respect to their abilities to meet future combat requirements and relative costs. GAO concluded that the Army's analyses had two key limitations:

  • The Army's analyses did not evaluate how the proposals would have performed under modified scenarios that varied the rate at which units would deploy into a major combat operation, or the duration of the major combat operation. Army officials emphasized that their analysis enabled them to credibly assess both proposals. However, additional sensitivity analyses could have provided senior Army leaders with insights on how adaptable the competing proposals would be when confronted with different combat requirements.
  • The Army's cost estimates were limited as a means of projecting actual costs and potential cost savings because they do not capture all the costs associated with unit conversion. Army officials stated that these estimates were intended to permit a comparison of the two proposals and were not intended to support future budget proposals. However, if these or other requirements are not addressed, the Army may be delayed in restoring unit readiness once the restructuring is completed.

GAO also has a substantial body of work examining other Army force structure issues:

  • In July 2014, GAO reviewed a DOD report to Congress about the relative costs of active and reserve units. GAO found that DOD's report had two key limitations: (1) it did not consider rotational policies that would require the Army to maintain more reserve component units in the structure to achieve the same operational capacity as fewer active units and (2) it did not comment on or consider active and reserve units' effectiveness.
  • In April 2014, GAO summarized its body of work on the Army's transformation to a modular structure. GAO reemphasized the importance that the Army use realistic cost estimates to enhance decision makers' ability to weigh competing priorities in a fiscally constrained environment and develop a comprehensive assessment plan to measure achievement of desired benefits.

In 2015, GAO found that authorized military and civilian positions for the Army Secretariat and Army Staff increased by 60 percent from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2013. GAO recommended that the Army implement its processes to determine and periodically re-validate personnel requirements at these headquarters organizations. DOD partially concurred with our recommendations, stating it would explore other methods to improve the determination and reporting of requirements. As of December 2014, detailed plans have not yet emerged.

In September 2014, GAO issued a report describing the Army's efforts to address challenges that would impede a military force's ability to enter and conduct operations in an area, which could have significant implications as DOD strategy shifts to a focus in the Pacific. GAO recommended that DOD establish milestones and measures to gauge the progress toward addressing these challenges. DOD partially concurred, stating that it is developing and will continue to refine measures and milestones.

GAO issued a series of reports examining the role of the reserve component and noted that several studies and a commission had determined that there is no viable alternative to the Army's continued reliance on reservists to meet operational needs. GAO also found that the Army planned to change the organization and missions of some of its reserve units to match their active counterparts, but that the Army had not finalized an implementation plan for this transition, estimated its full costs, or programmed for those costs in its budget. GAO made three recommendations to address these areas and DOD agreed, but as of 2013 DOD had not acted to implement any of them.

Why GAO Did This Study

The National Commission on the Future of the Army was tasked with conducting a comprehensive study on the structure of the Army, including the Army's October 2013 decision to restructure aviation capabilities by transferring all Army National Guard attack helicopters to the regular Army. GAO has issued a number of reviews of Army force structure changes over the past decade, most recently an April 2015 report reviewing the Army's aviation restructuring decision. This statement (1) discusses key findings from GAO's April 2015 report on the aviation restructuring and (2) highlights relevant force-structure challenges identified in GAO's prior work.

Skip to Recommendations


GAO has made recommendations to DOD in its prior work to address the force structure challenges that GAO has identified. Consequently, GAO is not making any new recommendations in this statement.

Full Report

GAO Contacts