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Highlights

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. military forces have sought to adapt to an expanded battlefield--one in which rear areas are no longer considered safe and secure. As a result, both the Navy and the Air Force determined that, in order to prepare to operate more effectively in combat, servicemembers in specific occupations required additional standardized combat skills training in such areas as land navigation, first aid, and weapons qualification. The Navy has developed and implemented the Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) course for select Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) personnel. Through ECS, NECC intended to standardize the training curricula and eliminate inefficiencies and wide divergences in existing combat skills training. To provide similar training to designated enlisted personnel, the Air Force began planning the Common Battlefield Airmen Training (CBAT) program, but decided to cancel the program in August 2008, which was during the course of our work. Despite the Air Force's decision, we included in this report an analysis of CBAT to identify lessons learned applicable to ongoing and future Air Force efforts to establish new training programs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To facilitate the development of training courses, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to (1) establish guidance that mandates creating an implementation strategy with a timeline to fully achieve program goals when developing new training programs, and (2) ensure in consultation with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations N1 (Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education) and Fleet Forces Command, that the Naval Education and Training Command apply this guidance and establish milestones and identify resources needed to fully implement the ECS program goal of training active and reserve component personnel as required by NECC.
Closed - Not Implemented
In response to our report, DOD acknowledged that the Navy's Expeditionary Combat Skills course lacked an implementation strategy with timelines. However, it said that this was due to the rapid standup of the course, which was necessary due to the Global War on Terrorism. DOD also noted that it had procedures in place for establishing new training programs, including fully funding appropriate initial training through Program Objective Memoranda (POM) and the Future Years Defense Program. Therefore, it did not direct the Navy to implement our recommendation, and the Navy did not issue the recommended guidance. Lacking an implementation strategy with timelines, the funding issues that plagued the program at the time of our 2009 report have continued to affect the Navy's Expeditionary Combat Skills course and proposed solutions continued to remain unfunded through POM 13.
Department of Defense 2. To facilitate the development of training courses, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to develop guidance that requires clear goals to guide and monitor the development of new training programs; in addition, the Air Force should ensure that it validates the need for future training programs, such as the Battlefield Airmen Screening Course.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation that the Air Force develop guidance that requires clear goals to guide and monitor the development of new training programs. Following the issuance of our report, the Air Force A1 office issued updated guidance that describes the process by which expeditionary skills training is identified, validated, and executed. Requirements are validated by the Expeditionary Skills Senior Review Group (ESSRG), with the Force Management and Development Council providing oversight. (The Force Management and Development Council is a senior level body that is chaired by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force and it makes strategic level recommendations directly to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force.) After requirements are validated, the ESSRG tasks Air Education and Training Command (AETC) with responsibility for developing curriculum and resourcing the requirement. AETC provides the Plan of Instruction, trains instructors, conducts student exit surveys to perform quality assurance and determine the adequacy of the training, and works closely with the Air Force Expeditionary Center to ensure the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures are incorporated into the curriculum. The Air Force Learning Committee, a chartered sub-panel of the Force Management Development Council, provides senior level oversight of institutional training and education requirements. Specifically, the Air Force Learning Committee validates curriculum content to ensure competency development meets specific Air Force needs in support of combatant commander mission requirements.

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