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Highlights

In response to congressional concerns about the Department of Defense's (DOD) performance in accounting for missing personnel, DOD established the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office in July 1993. This office is now called the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). DPMO's original mission was to provide centralized management of prisoner of war/missing in action affairs throughout DOD, and the office initially focused on missing service personnel from the Vietnam War and, to a lesser extent, incidents during the Cold War. Since its inception, Congress and DOD have expanded DPMO's mission and responsibilities. Concerned about the level of DPMO's resources, Congress in 2002 directed the Secretary of Defense to ensure that DPMO was provided with sufficient military and civilian personnel and funding to enable the office to fully perform its mission. Specifically, Congress established minimum levels of resources for DPMO, providing that the military and civilian personnel levels, as well as funding, would be not less than requested in "the President's budget for fiscal year 2003." On the basis of this congressional direction, DOD concluded that these minimum levels were: 46 military and 69 civilian personnel and $15.974 million in operation and maintenance (O&M) funding. We used these minimum levels in our analysis. The fiscal year 2005 National Defense Authorization Act required that we review the missions, staffing, and funding of DPMO. Our objectives were to (1) identify changes in DPMO's mission from the inception of the office to the present; (2) compare DPMO personnel and funding requests with actual staffing and funding levels from inception through fiscal year 2004, and determine whether the actual levels for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 were consistent with the minimum levels established by law; and (3) assess the extent to which DOD has evaluated any need for adjustment in personnel and/or funding levels, given changes in DPMO's mission. In May 2005, we provided Congress with information summarizing our observations in a briefing format. This letter summarizes and updates the information in the briefing.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to determine the scope of DPMO's missions and responsibilities, and revise DPMO's charter accordingly.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD has no plans to change the mission or update the charter of this organization.
Department of Defense 2. Based on the results of this determination, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to undertake a formal needs assessment of DPMO's workload to determine both what resources are needed and how they can best be allocated among the various mission areas, taking into account how DPMO fits within the overall spectrum of DOD organizations that have accounting or recovery missions.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD has not done a formal needs assessment and has no plans to do so.
Department of Defense 3. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to incorporate that information into a revised strategic plan that links goals and objectives to performance metrics and resource needs.
Closed - Not Implemented
Since DOD has not implemented our other recommendations, it has not revised DPMO's strategic plan to include the mission and resource information.

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